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Retiring nurses to teach PCN-funded GP nursing training scheme

by Jess Hacker
22 March 2023

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A Midlands-based integrated care board (ICB) is hoping to grow its own practice nurses with the launch of a part-PCN-funded training scheme to be taught by its retiring nurses.

The new Staffordshire General Practice Nursing Foundation School will see GP nurses who are nearing retirement take up teaching positions to train newly qualified nurses in a practice setting.

Run by Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent ICB’s training hub and jointly funded by the area’s PCNs, the ICB and Health Education England (HEE), the school will see trainee nurses spend half the week working in practice, and the remaining two days on training programmes.

The 25 trainee nurses will be hired on a 12-month fixed term contract by one of the footprint’s GP Federations on behalf of PCNs in the area, with the view of preparing the graduates to be hired by practices in the area.

Nurses who may be considering leaving general practice will be encouraged to stay on as teachers on the new programme, with the programme leads concerned that a mass retirement would mean the region loses its nursing expertise.

Rachel Viggars, the training 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.’

The school is predominantly funded by HEE and the ICB, with PCNs and the GP Federation contributing toward the nurses’ salaries. The ICB covers 25 PCNs in total.

As part of the 12-month course – which starts from September – trainee nurses will complete the Fundamentals of General Practice nursing post graduate certificate and the GPN Fellowship Programme.

Ms Viggars also said: ‘Trainee GPs would not be expected to enter general practice and work full time without going through a training programme, whereas with nurses that’s not quite the case: they can learn on the job or they can access individual training courses as they progress.

‘Our model replicates the successful GP speciality training scheme because we know that is what GP practices understand and value, and that it works.’

Dr Paddy Hannigan, a GP and a primary care partner on Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent ICB, said: ‘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.’

Projections from the Health Foundation suggest one quarter of GP nursing posts in England could be vacant by 2030, marking a shortage of 6,400 FTE nurses.

In our sister title’s primary care workforce report, Healthcare Leader heard that GP nurses need better pay and terms and conditions to boost numbers.

Under the new GP contract, published last week, NHS England added advanced nurse practitioners to the list of reimbursable roles available via the ARRS.

However, clinical directors have indicated the addition means very little when there are too few nurses willing to take the general practice roles.

A version of this story was first published on our sister title Pulse.