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Feasibility of adopting Minimum Education Standards for general practice nursing

02 May 2022
8 min read
Volume 33 · Issue 5


Education for general practice nurses varies by provider. Sue Crossman et al look at the feasibility of using minimum standards to determine whether courses are fit for purpose

Courses that prepare nurses to work in general practice vary widely in quality, content and appropriateness. In 2021, nurses, employers, education providers and commissioners in London tested whether it would be feasible to use co-developed ‘minimum standards’ to check whether education for general practice nurses is fit for purpose. We interviewed and surveyed 30 stakeholders who took part in facilitated discussions to compare five courses against the standards. The simple standards helped nurses, employers and commissioners make decisions about which courses to select and encouraged providers to tailor their programmes to better meet the needs of general practice. The standards can be applied during annual course reviews to consider whether courses cover all the key competencies general practice nurses need to provide the best patient care and take their place at the heart of primary care.

General practices across the UK are facing a recruitment and retention crisis, with most general practice nurses aged over 45 years (Napier and Clinch, 2019). The blend of patient facing staff is rapidly changing and general practice nurse (GPN) numbers have been declining (Buchan et al 2019). It has therefore been a priority to recruit more nurses to work in general practices, but there are significant gaps in the education available to ensure that GPNs have the competencies they need to work in primary care (Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI), 2016).

Nurses applying to work in general practice come from a wide range of clinical settings, often with little or no primary care experience. The flexibility and autonomy of working in general practice is attractive to some, but this is sometimes offset by isolation and a lack of empowerment to negotiate conditions and professional development opportunities (Aston, 2018). This makes it even more important that the courses available for nurses new to general practice offer everything that nurses need to work in new ways.

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