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GPNs urged to ‘make their voices heard’ in new retention study

GPNs urged to ‘make their voices heard’ in new retention study

A new research study is set to explore issues around retention in general practice nursing across England and Wales.

Funded by the General Nursing Council for England and Wales Trust, researchers at the University of York will be looking to interview general practice nurses (GPNs), nursing associates and advanced nurse practitioners about their experiences of working in primary care.

Dr Helen Anderson, research fellow at the University of York and a registered nurse by background, told Nursing in Practice that retention within nursing ‘across the board’ was ‘a big issue’.

‘There is no point filling the leaky buckets – however many recruits you get, if you don’t retain them, it is an issue,’ she added.

‘And we know with practice nursing this is an issue for a number of reasons.’

Dr Anderson pointed to research from the Health Foundation which projects that, under current policies, the full-time equivalent GPN shortfall could reach almost one in four posts by 2030/31.

‘Also there are nurses with loads of experience and skills and knowledge and qualifications, coming up to retiring,’ she added.

During a separate study exploring the impact of Covid-19 on GPNs, Dr Anderson said it was evident that some of the ‘stresses and strains’ endured during the pandemic meant some nurses were looking to retire early or reduce their hours.

‘So, all this seems to be a perfect storm in terms of retention of nurses working in general practice,’ she told Nursing in Practice.

As part of the research, the team is looking to speak with those who are working in or have recently left general practice nursing, to uncover what factors ‘encourage nurses to stay or leave general practice’.

Dr Anderson said they were specifically interested in ‘structural and cultural issues’, such as terms and conditions, voice and visibility, recognition, workload and stress, among others.

She stressed it was ‘really important’ for GPNs to ‘get out there and get their voices heard’, and she encouraged those keen to be involved in the research to contact her via email on: [email protected]

Dr Anderson will be carrying out this GPN retention research alongside applied health services researcher Professor Joy Adamson, with support from national primary care nursing lead at NHS England Louise Brady.

The research study has this week received its ethics approval and Dr Anderson said the team were planning to begin recruitment soon.

It comes after a recent report by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Wales warned of the potentially ‘devastating impact’ of an ageing GPN workforce in the country.

Meanwhile, concerns have been raised around a ‘seriously worrying’ lack of growth in GPN numbers in England.

And in a recent interview with Nursing in Practice, Queen’s Nursing Institute chief executive Dr Crystal Oldman warned that the contribution of GPNs was being ‘airbrushed out’ and ‘ignored’ – leaving behind a damaging and lasting impact on morale.

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