Practice nurses 'forced to work in extended hours'

A leading GP has warned that practices that mistreat employees are putting the profession at risk, after a survey found many had forced nurses to work extended hours for no extra pay.

A survey by GP's sister magazine Independent Nurse found that of 312 nurses and nurse practitioners employed in GP practices, 27 per cent were working extended hours.

A further 11 per cent said that although they were not, another nurse at their practice was.

But 45 per cent of nurses working extended hours said they felt they had had no choice but to accept the extra work.

Meanwhile, just 30 per cent of nurses working extended hours said their pay had increased to recognise the extra work.

This was despite the fact that 36 per cent of nurses said taking on extended hours meant they were working more hours overall.

Nurses said the GP pay freeze had left them fearing redundancies, and that they felt they had no choice but to accept extra work.

One nurse said her practice had tried to dupe nursing staff into working extended hours by claiming it was a PCT requirement.

National Association of Primary Care chairman Dr James Kingsland welcomed the fact that large numbers of practices were opening for extended hours.

'General practice is responding to perceived patient needs and government directives. It should get plaudits for that.'

But he warned: 'Sometimes on fair employment practice it lets itself down.'

He warned that practices and GPs that fail to treat employees fairly faced two key risks.

'Nurses that are undervalued and underpaid will look for work in other parts of the health service. That is a disaster for primary care.'

He added that poor treatment of staff would confirm DoH pre-conceptions about the limitations of small-scale NHS providers. 'If the DoH saw these survey results, it may say "why should we have employers in the NHS that are unfair?",' he said.

Survey results

27% of nurses are working extended hours

30% of nurses working extended hours are paid more

11% said a nurse colleague was working extended hours

45% said they had no choice but to work extended hours

Source: Independent Nurse survey.

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