There are now only 14,000 full time equivalent practice nurses in the NHS, making up just 3.6% of the total nursing population, said chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute Dr Crystal Oldman.
‘Those nurses are seeing the whole population, just as GPs are. So it really puts into context where the investment is going in the NHS.’
Dr Oldman said in order to attract more nurses into primary care, more community placements were needed in practices, and nurses had to be offered general practice as a career choice much earlier in their training.
Northhamptonshire GP Dr Simon Gregory told delegates that GP practices needed to be more supportive of practice nursing, and the NHS should make better use of new roles such as physician assistants.
Dr Gregory, who is also director of education and quality, and postgraduate dean, of Health Education East of England, said: ‘We need to learn to embrace students into primary care rather than thinking it’s just more work for us.’
A scheme run by Health Education Yorkshire and the Humber has successfully recruited 120 practices to regularly take placements of student nurses.
Clinical lead and Barnsley GP Dr Peter Lane said increasing numbers of nurses were now choosing general practice as a career after a six-week placement.