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Practice nurses are too valuable to be overlooked any longer

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the general practice nurse has provided face-to-face, frontline care for their patients. We have been delivering life-saving screening, chronic disease care, contraception and immunisation services, as well as planning and advising colleagues on safe practice, infection prevention and control, and supporting our patients well being.

So why is the GPN invisible, rarely mentioned in news reports, or TV stories about the NHS and Covid?

If we go back to July of last year, health secretary Matt Hancock said he was expanding who can legally vaccinate to make sure that it’s not just GPs, but also nurses. This lead to an outcry from nurses across the country, who were angered and dismayed by this shocking ignorance of our profession. Or perhaps we should have expected it?

We continue in our struggle for recognition of the extent of our experience and role as GPNs, and continue to drive to change the common myths that perpetuate around what we do. If the media are to be believed, it will be the GP delivering this Covid vaccination programme. I watch and listen to the news daily, and while I am happy to be corrected, I do not see or hear any GPN being asked to offer their view on the vaccine delivery.

According to the RCN, GPNs and nursing organisations were not involved in consultations about the Directed Enhanced Service (DES). Professor Alison Leary, chair of healthcare and workforce modelling at London South Bank University, told this publication that NHS England ‘would have been wise to consult GPNs around the logistics of this roll out’ it was ‘concerning they did not’. It could be said the GPN is seen as an administrator, rather than the expert, in the planning and implementation of vaccine programmes.  

Myself and GPN colleague Sam Cunliffe launched a national survey of the terms and conditions of GPNs in October 2020. We’ve had over 1,200 respondents – and it is still a live survey. In an already diminishing workforce, to hear GPNs stating they are; ‘not valued’, ‘disrespected’ ‘disgusted’, ‘unappreciated’, ‘exhausted’, ‘stressed’ and ‘discriminated against’ makes me angry and also very disheartened for my colleagues and our profession.

Those responsible for the provision of primary care services in this country should be very concerned.

We are in the midst of the most challenging time any of us will have had to face in our NHS careers. We still have such a long road to climb to dispel those misconceptions of what we do and gain that recognition that makes us the most trusted profession.