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Outrage over campaign’s ‘inaccurate and trivialising’ description of GPNs

Outrage over campaign’s ‘inaccurate and trivialising’ description of GPNs

A general practice campaign has been heavily criticised by the nursing profession for using what has been described as ‘highly inaccurate’ and ‘trivialising’ descriptions of general practice nurses (GPNs).

The ‘It’s a GP thing’ campaign by Bradford District Craven Health and Care Partnership also wrongly suggested nursing associates were able to assess, diagnose and prescribe, and labelled the title of ‘physician associate’ as ‘physician’.

The organisation has since apologised for ‘mistakes’ that it said had been made and pledged to update materials to ‘ensure they are accurate and use correct titles for colleagues in general practice teams’.

Within one of the campaign posters, which has currently been removed, it said GPNs ‘treat wounds, apply dressings and provide emergency first aid as well as taking swabs, smears and samples’.

And that nursing associates ‘assess, diagnose and monitor complex conditions through examinations, testing and prescribing medicines’.

Chair of the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) Professor John Unsworth said he had contacted the partnership and asked them to remove the document.

He told Nursing in Practice: ‘While attempts at providing the public with details of members of the wider primary healthcare team are admirable such information must be accurate.

‘The information from Bradford and Craven Health and Care Partnership was misleading as it represented nursing associates as capable of assessment, diagnosis and prescribing.

‘This is not the scope of the role and it is legally not possible.’

Professor Unsworth added that the description used for GPNs was ‘even more astonishing – as someone who “does the odd dressing and first aid”’.

While the document has been removed, he was concerned the materials had already been ‘widely distributed’ for a while.

Dr Helen Anderson, research fellow at the University of York, and previously a GPN and advanced nurse practitioner, agreed it was ‘a shame this inaccurate campaign has been running for some time’.

Writing on social media website X, Dr Anderson said: ‘The information about nurses working in general practice specifically needs addressing.

‘Nurses have been established in general practice for decades so it is unclear why there is not an accurate representation of their skills and level of knowledge. The description of nursing associate work is also completely inaccurate.’

Speaking to Nursing in Practice, she added that the GPN description ‘should have accurately reflected the level of GPN practice and role variety and complexity’.

‘For example, management of long-term conditions, women’s health, delivering childhood and other important vaccination programmes, sexual health, wound management.’

She added that the nursing associate description must also reflect that they work ‘under the direction of registered nurses and implement some of the care planned by those registered nurses’.

Also on X, the Royal College of Nursing’s GPN Forum added that the campaigned used ‘a highly inaccurate and trivialising description for GPNs’ and questioned whether those behind it understood ‘enhanced nursing roles’.

Professor of healthcare and workforce modelling Alison Leary said this ‘misrepresentation of the vital work done by nurses in primary care is symptomatic of a much wider issue’.

‘Nursing in primary care appears to be poorly understood despite contributing a vital service,’ she told Nursing in Practice.

Bradford and District Craven Health and Care Partnership has since issued an apology for the ‘mistakes’ it said it had made within its campaign, but did not explicitly mention the concerns raised around GPNs and nursing associates.

While the campaign had been developed using the involvement of GP practice staff and clinical leads in the area – who had given feedback – the organisation said it recognised it ‘had not updated’ all of its resources.

‘While every care and effort are taken through our campaign planning cycles to ensure materials are accurate, on this occasion mistakes were made,’ it said in an online statement.

‘We are truly sorry for this as we know the overarching campaign and messaging has been well received by colleagues in primary care and wider community partners.’

It added: ‘Furthermore, we would like to issue a sincere apology for those colleagues whose roles have been mistakenly misrepresented.

‘We are undertaking a rapid internal review to understand how this mistake has happened and ensure it does not happen again in the future.

‘We will be updating our materials to ensure they are accurate and use the correct titles for colleagues working in general practice teams.’

The partnership had hoped to ‘help people understand the range of roles working alongside doctors in their general practice team’.

A recent roundtable event hosted by Nursing in Practice heard from the profession about the need to ensure GPNs are properly valued, to help support with recruitment and retention.

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