Practice nurses feel undervalued for their work during the Covid-19 crisis and 35% are considering leaving the profession, a Nursing in Practice survey has revealed.
The survey of 184 general practice nurses, carried out online last month, showed workloads had greatly increased – either ‘greatly’ (52%) or ‘slightly’ (29%) – during the pandemic.
But nurses say they are not being valued, particularly for the face-to-face appointments they are doing, while GPs do most of their work virtually or on the phone.
They also told Nursing in Practice they are being left out of important decision making despite doing most of the vaccination work. The findings back up Nursing in Practice’s in-depth piece, which found nurses were the ‘forgotten frontline’ during Covid.
All practice nurses Nursing in Practice spoke to did not wish to be named. One advanced nurse practitioner, based in the South East of England, said she may retire early or move roles as she feels ‘demoralised’ and that ‘nurses have been ignored’ in the past year.
‘Nurses have not been involved in the planning for infection prevention control or the vaccination programme. We are afterthoughts. Nurses have been doing face-to-face appointments every 15 minutes while GPs rarely see patients,’ she told Nursing in Practice.
A practice nurse, based in Yorkshire and the Humber, said: ‘I would consider [leaving my role] due to lack of pay given the work we are doing and feeling not recognised by the Government.’
Another, based in the East Midlands, wrote: ‘I am considering retiring early, due to stress. I am continuing to see patients face-to-face, working increased hours and feel employers are taking advantage of situation.’
In the South East of England, a GPN said they were ‘staggered’ when a practice partner had not realised ‘the nursing team still had full clinics’. Another wrote: ‘The nursing team have not been supported in reducing face-to-face contact in the same way as GPs.’
Another from the same area said: ‘I feel unappreciated by the doctors and patients. I’m sick of being undervalued because I am “only a nurse”.’
GPNs were ‘left out of important decisions regarding Covid vaccines’, when they carry out most of the work and have experience with past mass vaccination campaigns, a practice nurse in Yorkshire and the Humber said.
In November last year, Nursing in Practice revealed the RCN was not consulted on the direct enhanced service – an opt-in, nationally negotiated service over and above those provided under usual contracts – for general practice to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine, and nor were practice nurses.
Instead, the agreement was between the British Medical Association (BMA) General Practitioners Committee in England, NHS England and NHS Improvement.
Jude Diggins, interim director of nursing, policy and public affairs at the RCN said: ‘Throughout the pandemic, GP nurses have continued to provide a regular service in the community, and they are also delivering the Covid-19 vaccine programme. This increase in workload is manageable in the short term, but not long term.
‘A third of survey respondents have said they considered leaving their role sooner than expected due to their experience during the pandemic; if this happens, we will be losing a lot of experienced staff.’
The survey also found nurses had to take time off work without full sick pay and were not able to take holiday. More coverage on the Nursing in Practice survey results will follow next week.