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Overwhelmed and undervalued


Exclusive: Two-thirds of practice nurses considering quitting in next year

Exclusive: Two-thirds of practice nurses considering quitting in next year


Two-thirds of nurses working in general practice are thinking about leaving the profession within a year, with many saying they feel overworked and undervalued, a Nursing in Practice survey has found.

The poll of 393 general practice nursing staff from across the UK – including 285 practice nurses, 65 nurse practitioners and 24 ANPs – which ran from 26 January to 16 February, found nurses mostly wanted to leave by retiring early (18%).

This was followed by moving to a different nursing role outside of general practice (11%), changing professions altogether (8%), retiring as planned (6%) and moving to a different role within general practice (5%). A further 14% were not sure how, while 5% wanted to leave by other means.

When asked to explain why they felt like leaving, many said they felt exhausted, overworked and underpaid, with too little time to do their jobs to do the best of their ability.

Only 33% of respondents said they were not considering leaving their jobs in the next year.

‘Feeling undervalued’

A GPN in the East Midlands shared that they ‘can’t sustain the stress levels and demands’, while a nurse practitioner in the same area said they ‘cannot see any improvement on the horizon’.

Meanwhile, a nurse practitioner in Northern Ireland said: ‘After 41 years in health care provision, it appears to be getting a lot harder to spread myself over the amount of work and time I have in order to provide a gold standard of care for my patients.’

And a practice nurse in North West England summarised: ‘I feel I am not given the time I need to do my job to the standard that I would like to. Feel undervalued.’

Several also cited frustrations with their variable pay, terms and conditions compared to other nurses on standardised NHS Agenda for Change (AfC) contracts.

A GPN in the West Midlands said that when nurses on AfC contracts were awarded a 3% pay rise last year, practices nurses felt ‘excluded’ and ‘so undervalued’ as a result.

‘Desperately sad but not surprising’

RCN professional lead for general practice nursing Heather Randle said our survey’s findings came as ‘no surprise’, particularly after the ‘huge pressures’ of the Covid-19 pandemic ‘against a backdrop of poor pay and working conditions’. 

She concluded: ‘Staff feel undervalued and invisible, and it’s desperately sad but not surprising that many are thinking of leaving their jobs. Even before the pandemic, the system was under strain with not enough skilled nurses. Now it is in crisis.’

Read a full analysis of the survey results with more insight into general practice nurses’ thoughts on the backlog of care, workload and morale.

This comes after research found practice nurses have ‘vast’ and ‘complex’ clinical skills, knowledge and expertise that is ‘poorly articulated’ by themselves and ‘underestimated’ by others.

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