Practice nurses feel ‘let down’ over pay and working conditions, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, a landmark survey has found.
Practice nurses mentioned pay (40 times) and working conditions (20 times) most frequently out of all issues and in a ‘universally negative’ way, the survey of 3,177 GPNs carried out in May last year said.
One respondent to the survey – designed by the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) and other stakeholders including the RCN, NHS England and NHS Improvement – wrote that the disparity among terms and conditions, such as sick pay, holiday and pay, was ‘shocking’.
Many GPNs are being ‘let down and not respected or appreciated’ and some staff ‘can’t wait to get out and retire’, they added. ‘How sad and heartbreaking is that?’
Another GPN said their practice does not pay for sick leave, an issue previously reported by Nursing in Practice, and one argued they should be on Agenda for Change pay scales – currently reserved for NHS employees – after demonstrating how ‘integral’ they were during Covid-19.
In all, 15 people said they wanted to leave the profession. A 62-year-old wrote: ‘If I was in a position to be able to leave, I would. I do not think we are in any way properly protected and I feel very much at risk.’
One respondent complained they had received ‘no support from our practice manager or GPs before, during and no doubt after Covid-19.’ Another wrote: ‘It’s sickened me to see how nurses have been forced to put themselves at risk when the doctors in the surgery hide away in their rooms.’
Most (78%) GPNs said they felt supported by their employer, but only 34% said they felt supported by their colleagues, which the report concluded ‘warrants further investigation’.
QNI chief executive Dr Crystal Oldman said the QNI plans to hold a symposium on GPN workforce issues this spring and is ‘very keen to work with NHS England’ to address them.
Dr Oldman said: ‘Our aim is to help ensure more consistent and equitable treatment and recognition for the whole GPN workforce, who play such a vital role in individual and population health.’
On the release of the report, RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair told Nursing in Practice: ‘The pandemic has highlighted, if were ever needed, the vital role general practice nurses play in the delivery of health and care for patients.
‘The RCN continues to demand fair pay, good terms and safe and healthy working conditions for general practice nurses that properly values their skills, knowledge and experience.
‘Only through proper recognition will it be possible to attract nurses into general practice and build a health and care system fit for the care patients need.’
In March last year, RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair told Nursing in Practice that the RCN had a role in helping practice nurses to negotiate better terms and conditions in their contracts and ‘articulate their worth’.
But she cautioned that some GPNs who ‘earn better’ could see a salary drop if they move to an Agenda for Change contract and that it was difficult to get ‘one shoe that fits all’.