A ‘significant’ lack of growth in the number of general practice nurses working in England has sparked a fresh call for improved pay and employment conditions for those working in the sector.
Nursing leaders have flagged serious concerns over latest general practice workforce statistics which showed a slight increase in the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) general practice nurses and a small decrease in the overall headcount.
As of July 2023, there were 16,952 FTE nurses working across general practices in England – up by 1.6% (265) on July 2022.
But the overall headcount of general practice nurses stood at 23,369 – down 0.3% (79) on July 2022.
The data, published last week by NHS Digital, also showed a total of 4,049 FTE advanced nurse practitioners – up 2.2% on July 2022.
Royal College of Nursing head of nursing Christine Callender told Nursing in Practice that the small increase in registered nurse numbers reflected the need to address recruitment within practices and reiterated calls for improved pay and working conditions.
‘This lack of significant growth in the number of general practice nurses is seriously worrying and shows there’s still a lot of work to be done to attract people into the profession,’ she said.
‘Primary care is still recovering from the impact of the pandemic and improvements in the employment terms and conditions and fair pay for GP nurses is needed to attract them into general practice – and help improve health and care outcomes for the whole community.’
Meanwhile, the data also showed a large increase in the number of nursing associates working in general practices – a role funded by the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS), which has also prompted concerns for nurses.
As of July 2023, there were 393 FTE nursing associates in general practices across England, jumping 44% on July 2022 when there were 271 FTE posts.
The data set also highlighted how the number of FTE GPs has dropped by 1.2% (330) within a year period, standing at 27,177 as of July 2023.
Queen’s Nursing Institute chief executive Dr Crystal Oldman said the decline in GPs meant ‘even a small drop in headcount’ of nurses was ‘a concern’.
However, she stressed the increase in FTE nurse positions was ‘good’ and ‘shows that the skills, knowledge and expertise of general practice nurses are needed more than ever’.
Dr Oldman also noted how this slight increase, coupled with a small reduction headcount, suggested ‘working hours have been increased’ for general practice nurses.