One in eight practice nurse positions in the UK is vacant, according to a survey by Pulse.
In the 718 practices surveyed there were 1,881 full-time positions available, of which 234.5 places that were vacant.
This represents a vacancy rate of 12.5% in practice nursing positions.
Kathryn Yates, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) professional lead for primary and community care, told Pulse that such a high vacancy rate could damage patient care and has called for a greater effort to be made to recruit and retain nurses.
She said: “Nurse practitioners are an integral part of the general practice team, providing vital care to patients, but this branch of the profession is experiencing real issues with recruitment and retention.”
Nursing could face a further workforce shortage as the Government moves to make nurses pay for their own training from August next year.
A recent RCN survey found that two thirds of nurses would not have gone into the profession had they had to pay their own tuition.
However, Professor Martin Roland, professor of health sciences at the University of Cambridge, told Pulse: “The bursary issue may affect recruitment to nursing schools, but that would take several years to filter through into primary care and would probably be evident in other settings first.”
Roland, who chaired Health Education England’s Primary Care Workforce Commission, added that the shortage of practice nurses “had been an issue for a long time”.
He said: “We commented in our report that the problems of GPs and practice nurses were very similar – difficulty attracting nurses into general practice lack of career structure, ageing workforce and increasing retirements. We called for an equivalent of the 10 point plan for nurses.”
Another recent survey by Pulse found that GP vacancy rates are at their highest on record, with 11.7% of positions unfilled throughout the country.
In response to the Primary Care Workforce Commission, NHS England gave £15 million for practice nurse development in the GP Forward View.