Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, has pledged to campaign for a fairer deal for general practice nurses.
Speaking at the Best Practice in Nursing conference in Birmingham last month, Ms Davies said that the RCN was in discussion with the BMA and RCGP about how salary bands in line with Agenda for Change (AFC) banding in the hospital sector could be introduced in general practice.
‘One of the things we are talking about is how we can get a proper framework for practice nurses, with [pay] bands to achieve consistency. If we can get some traction on AFC bands, there will be increases in remuneration for increased responsibilities and skills.
‘The RCGP broadly supports this position,’ she said.
New ways of working in primary care, with provision of GP services across population ‘footprints’ – for example, in federations rather than in individual practices – provide greater opportunities for GPNs to work to AFC bands, she added.
‘General practice nurses are expanding their role to take on work previously done by others. There is a shift from the traditional role – but it is an advancement of the nursing role, not a cheaper alternative [to doctors].
‘Underneath the Five Year Forward View for General Practice, there is a real belief in the value of teams, and the value of GPNs. Nursing is absolutely key to success, and if there isn’t strong nursing leadership in the primary care team, it doesn’t work as well.’
Steps were being taken to boost recruitment and retention in general practice nursing, and there are also plans to increase the number of GPs – but the increasing number of ‘golden hellos’ to attract doctors into primary care was causing ‘not a little irritation’ at the RCN, Ms Davies said.
Ms Davies added: ‘Last year we were asked to do something to formalise the title, advanced nurse practitioner. We guaranteed to credential advanced practitioners – and I am pleased to say that we have now done that.’
The credentialing scheme allows nurses to gain formal recognition of their expertise and skill in their clinical practice, leadership, education and research in a way that is recognisable to colleagues, employers, patients and the public. It is open to nurses who can demonstrate that they are working at an advanced level and who have a master’s degree. The cost of inclusion on the register is £275, and it is renewable every 3 years at an additional cost, currently £125.