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They are often the lynchpin of a well-run doctors’ practice, performing varied roles and procedures, providing a first point of contact for patients and freeing up doctors’ time for more complex medical matters.

Now the role of the General Practice Nurse (GPN) is being officially recognised and promoted in a new 10-point action plan from NHS England. Unveiled by England’s Chief Nursing Officer, the action plan is designed to support existing GPNs, attract new recruits to the role and encourage former GPNs to return.

Backed by a £15 million investment, the plan sets out steps develop the role of GPNs in transforming frontline care and helping deliver the wider plan to make the NHS fit for the future. It recognises that a growing and ageing population in the UK, with multiple and complex health conditions, has led to growing pressure on the General Practice workforce, including its nurses. And it proposes that GPNs can play a key role in meeting new challenges facing NHS primary care.

Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “As the NHS transforms the way that we deliver care, treating more patients in the community, the importance of our General Practice workforce will only increase.

“Nurses working in General Practice may not have always received the recognition they deserve in the past, but they are central to our plan to improve care for patients and ensure the NHS is fit for the future. That is why I am determined to ensure there is a proper career development programme for those who choose this vital path and make it an attractive first choice for newly-qualified nurses, as well as helping experienced staff take advantage of the flexibility it offers to re-enter the workforce.”

Measures included in the action plan include:

  • Raising the profile of General Practice Nurses to increase uptake of training places.
  • Offering clinical placements for undergraduates and supporting additional routes into General Practice Nursing.
  • Encouraging qualified GPNs to return to practice – the national ‘return to practice programme’ will now include GPNs.
  • Supporting existing GPNs, including a scheme which will give all new GPNs access to an induction programme, training and mentoring and an expansion in leadership and career opportunities.

Commenting on the action plan, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Practice nurses are incredibly important members of the practice team, and highly valued by GPs and patients alike – but as patient demand has soared, numbers of practice nurses, like GPs, have not kept pace.

“The College has been calling for elements of this plan to be introduced for many years, so we’re really pleased to see wheels being put into motion. We now need all aspects of this plan to be implemented in full and as swiftly as possible – and we will play our part in ensuring it is a success.

“We look forward to welcoming, and welcoming back, as many practice nurses to the profession as possible.”

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