Practice nurse workforce numbers: are we heading towards a problem?
Practice nurse numbers are a concern. Sarah Butler looks at the barriers to getting more nurses into general practice
The number of practice nurses in the UK is significantly lower than those working as nurses on a ward. Despite many experienced nurses opting to work a practice nurses, the number of newly qualified nurses choosing practice nursing as their first post is low. Newly qualified nurses, instead, prefer to gain experience in secondary care first, with many not realising practice nurses do not need to have worked in secondary care. Pressures such as increasing workload and an ageing workforce will only deplete the number of practice nurses in post already, therefore increasing practice nurse numbers is essential.
Despite practice nursing being a favoured career choice for many experienced nurses, newly qualified nurses still appear reluctant to enter the primary care workforce. General practice in the UK has seen an increase in patient demand with an estimated 340 million consultations occurring annually, which will continue to increase (Mueller, 2020). In addition to the growing demand for consultations from GPs, there is also an increasing workload for general practice nurses. Due to an ageing population, there has been a substantial increase in the number of complex long-term conditions, with the management of these conditions often falling within the remit of practice nurses (Carrier and Newbury, 2016). It is imperative that as these numbers continue to rise, nurses are encouraged to consider practice nurse roles as a primary career choice after qualifying (Imison et al, 2016).
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