A ground-breaking new “school” that could transform nursing in GP practices is being launched in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
The Staffordshire General Practice Nursing Foundation School is the first of its kind and is enrolling its first students this month.
The school is a new way in aiming to attract more nurses into the crucial role of general practice nursing.
It has been designed and will be run by the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Training Hub, in collaboration and with support from the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Integrated Care System and Health Education England.
Rachel Viggars, the hub’s Strategic Nurse Lead, said: “Currently very few newly-qualified nurses choose to work in general practice for a number of reasons, and ultimately that is a real challenge because the current GP nursing workforce is ageing with more nurses getting closer to retiring that have valuable skills and knowledge we don’t want to lose.
“There is a real need to get more nurses joining general practice earlier in their careers. Many nurses are directly employed by individual practices, which are independent, rather than being employed by the NHS, meaning that there is no uniform pattern of training and support or career progression.
“This is the primary issue the school is looking to address. GP practices can recruit nurses either individually or by pooling resources through Primary Care Networks (PCNs) – these are groups of GP practices working together, normally supporting a population of 30-50,000 patients
“The school will centrally recruit candidates and support with training and supervision to ensure a standardised approach to the pathway and also provide some financial support to practices to assist delivery of the supervision that is needed.
“Nurses are a vital part of the general practice workforce. We believe this can help deliver enormous benefits for GP practices across the area and we are hopeful it is a model that could be replicated elsewhere.”
Rachel is passionate about general practice nursing and is a Queen’s Nurse, an honour awarded to community and General Practice nurses for demonstrating their commitment to learning, leadership and excellence in patient care.
She explained: “Initially we want to take on 25 trainee GPNs . These will be nurses who are newly qualified or those that wish a change in direction of their nursing career. There is a great deal of interest from nurses, and that now needs to be matched by general practice. It is a scheme that has taken a great effort to get to this point. This is a national issue, and our progress will be evaluated by the Queen’s Nursing Institute for potential further and wider rollout.”
Rachel added: “Being a general practice nurse is an amazing career because of the relationship you can build up with your patients. You will often see members of the same family ranging from babies to those in their 90s and 100s.
“You also get to specialise in being a generalist. Nurses will see a much broader range of conditions than if they worked on a hospital ward – meaning they can develop their own specialisms.”
Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, Chief Medical Officer for the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Integrated Care Board, added: “We are backing the General Practice Nursing School to the hilt and believe it offers a really promising model for the future.
“Workforce development is one of our key challenges and general practice is generally first point-of-contact for our patients who need to be seen by the right person at the right time. Anything that strengthens general practice benefits the NHS and all of our residents.”
Dr Paddy Hannigan, a GP and an ICB Partner Member within Primary Care added: “The recruitment and retention of our workforce is integral to our general practice five year strategy, in particular providing long term conditions management, personalised care and prevention approaches to our patient population. We want to continue to make general practice in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent an attractive and exciting place to work and this scheme goes some way to helping us to achieve this. I am excited to follow the progress of the school over the coming weeks, months and years.
You can listen to Rachel talking about the School in our latest podcast (7 mins)