Time for general practice nurses to be NHS employed?

Yet again, RCN congress 2017 highlighted that the nursing workforce crisis is affecting all areas of healthcare, and with 50% of general practice nurses (GPNs) due to retire shortly, GPNs are not immune. 

The shift towards delivering more healthcare at home must be supported by a primary care nursing workforce fit for purpose.

The General Practice Nursing Workforce Development Plan offers guidance on improving recruitment and retention, and making GPN a first career choice. However, encouraging and attracting new registrants and nurses from secondary to primary care is a challenge.


The myths around general practice being unsuitable for nurses at qualification and the expectation from GPs and practice managers that there is plethora of nurses who can hit the ground running as GPNs adds to the problem.

While some GPNs are satisfied with their current contract many struggle with terms and conditions, access to continuous professional development, a formalised career development pathway and a standardised salary scale.

Why would a new registrant choose general practice over a position in the NHS with its guaranteed preceptorship and decent terms and conditions?

New thinking

Now is the time for a new way of thinking if we are to work through the workforce challenges. We are all drawing from the same pool of nurses. Has the time come for nurses working in general practice to be employed by the NHS and managed by clinical commissioning groups?

‘No’, you may shout, ‘we couldn’t wait to leave the NHS.’ But are you part of the new generation of nurses? Incorporating GPNs into the NHS would seem pragmatic.

Not only would it allow GPNs the same terms and conditions as NHS colleagues, but it would help promote a structured career development pathway and foster a more cohesive approach to working alongside other primary care practitioners.

Structured model

It would help ensure a standard approach to implementing the aims of the workforce development plan across all clinical commissioning groups.

Let’s take the ambiguity out of recruitment to general practice and replace it with a structured model.

Marie-Therese Massey is a Queen’s Nurse, chair of the RCN General Practice Nursing Forum, and senior lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University