The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) practice nurses working in the NHS has increased by more than 2% over the past year.
But the numbers fall short of figures quoted in the GP Forward View for additional non-medical staff required to bolster the primary care workforce.
New data from NHS Digital reported 22,976 practice nurses working in primary care as of March 2018 – with a full-time equivalent of 15,889. This is an increase of 239 on the 22,737 reported in March 2017, and 361 more FTE practice nurses compared to the 15,528 the year before.
And provisional June 2018 figures show this number increasing further, with 22,986 practice nurses in primary care (15,925 FTE).
Between January and March this year, a total of 703 practice nurses joined surgeries in England (475 FTE), with 678 leaving (434 FTE).
But the numbers are scant contribution to the 5,000 extra non-medical staff quoted in the GP Forward View as required to support the primary care workforce, which included practice nurses, pharmacists and physician associates.
And analysis of nurse numbers has revealed that the workforce is not getting younger, with 56% (11,786) aged 50 or over, a percentage that represents no change from March 2017.
Better news is found in the younger age bands, where there are more practice nurses under 30 now than in March 2017. In total, 740 are aged 30 or younger, compared to 653 in March 2017, with a further 1,034 aged 30-34, compared to 997 in March 2017.
Only last month, new health secretary Matt Hancock expressed his desire to see a ‘culture change’ within general practice by increasing the number of practice nurses within GP surgeries, to aid falling numbers of GPs.
Table 1: practice nurses working in primary care
|March 2017||March 2018|
Table 2: practice nurses in primary care by age band
|Age band||Number of practice nurses|