Immediate recruitment of 900 extra Practice Nurses would be a “game-changer” for community-based care – NAGP

In their pre-budget submission, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) has called on the Government to urgently redirect funding presently assigned for community health nurses, to practice nurses. The NAGP say the Government’s recent commitment to provide an additional 900 community health nurses would be better utilised in General Practice and would provide a coherent team-based system of care in the community.

Dr. Andrew Jordan, NAGP Chairman, explained, “Practice nurses are an invaluable part of the GP practice team. By deploying these resources as practice nurses, the GPs will be better resourced to care for patients in the community. Committing to the immediate recruitment of 900 additional practice nurses would support acute care and the delivery of Chronic Disease Management (CDM) in the community. Extra practice nurses would ensure more patients are seen in a timely manner and would assist the capacity crisis in General Practice”.

If GPs are to work to standards set by the national clinical programmes, they will need more nursing support in their practices. GPs need an extended team to deliver a first-class service to patients. This would enable general practice to provide more preventive, predictive and anticipatory care to patients in the community. Vulnerable cohorts including the frail elderly would benefit most from this rationalisation of healthcare delivery.

Dr. Jordan, said, “GPs have suffered disproportionate cuts under FEMPI (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) and continue to work under a contract that is no longer fit-for-purpose. The impact of these cuts is being felt by patients as pressure on GPs increase waiting times for an appointment”.

Community health nurses are not currently part of the practice team. The NAGP believe that investing in more community care nurses will only lead to another silo of community services that are detached and unaccountable to the primary care physician – and therefore will add to the fragmentation of care.

Dr. Jordan continued, “By investing in practice nurses, the Government will ensure better patient outcomes, reduced healthcare costs and higher levels of satisfaction, by keeping care in the community. Practice nurses who work alongside the GP as part of a functioning team can deliver more integrated and coherent healthcare services in the community”.

To further assist GPs and practice nurses, the training of healthcare assistants or physician assistants to carry out other tasks would also alleviate workload pressure and is an option that must be explored. It is in the best interests of patient care that all health professionals would work to the top of their licence.

Read the submission in full here.