Special training schemes are being put in place to fast track nurses into the specific skills needed for the job in general practice, and doctors are re-organising their operations to make sure they are covered where any shortages may arise.
The move comes as Doncaster NHS has held its first annual awards for GPs nurses.
Dr Dean Eggitt, the chief executive of the Doncaster Local Medical Committee, which represents the interest of the borough’s family doctors, said work was being done to address the issue, which comes on top of an ongoing shortage of GPs.
He said: “It has been estimated we have lost 30 per cent of GPs in the last five years. We used to have 240 GPs.
“But we are having the same now with nurses, because so many of them are hitting retirement age.
“We are very lucky in South Yorkshire that we have Dr Ben Jackson, who is a GP in Conisbrough, who is creating a way to train nurses here in South Yorkshire, rather than putting them through a three year degree.
“GP nurses recruitment used to be trained in a hospital environment, and they would later move into family care. They may be experienced nurses, but find it is different.”
The shortage comes at a time when new GP contracts are set to come into play, which will see changes in how patients are looked after.
It will see more work that has traditionally been carried out by GPs carried out by other clinical staff including nurses and practice pharmacists.
There will also be Doncaster Council workers embedded in practices to deal with ‘life issues’ which doctors say now form a large portion of their work. Pilot schemes are lined up in Rossington and Edlington.
“It is moving away from the mindset that you’re going to the GPs to see see a doctor,” said Dr Eggitt. “You will see the clinician who is best equipped to deal with your problem.”
He added it will also be increasingly common that clinics will be provided by centres jointly operated by a number of doctors grouped in the same geographical area, for issues such as diabetes.
How nurses are helping GPs
The plans to boost the number of nurses available to GP practices comes as Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group honours some of its best nurses.
Five awards were dished out at a ceremony held at Doncaster Rugby Club, on Armthorpe Road, at a ceremony which highlighted many of the new roles nurses are now taking on.
Lisa Scott, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner from The Scott Practice in Balby was given the award for mentoring. Dr David Crichton, chairman of the CCG, said the award was for the inspirational support she has given to individuals who are new or newly qualified to practice nursing and to student nurses on placement in primary care.
Lisa, who has been a nurse for 19 years, said: “GPs are going through recruitment issues with trained practice nurses so we are having to look at different ways of recruiting into post. We’ve just recruited two nurses new to GPs and my role has been in supporting them in their roles.”
As an advanced nursing practitioner, she also does work that would traditionally have been done by GPs involving minor ailments.
The innovation award went to the South West proactive care nursing team, which has been set up as a joint project combing the Scott Practice, St John’s Group, New Surgery Mexborough, Mexbrough Health Surgery, the Edlington Practice, Nayar Practice, Edlington, Barnburgh Surgery and Park View Surgery, Sprotbrough.
It consists of nurses Emma Smith, Stephanie Walton, Claire Vincent and Sara Newman. It is for work they have done to help some of the practices most poorly patients to look after themselves and understand their own health needs better across the whole area and reducing duplication of services.
Emma said: “We look after 1,080 patients. Sometimes we go out to the patients, and we are very community based. Our patients have our direct numbers and we get a lot of contact on a daily basis. We have brought eight surgeries together. It is nice to know the wider CCG appreciates what we do.”
Irene Halliday, a nurse practitioner from the Mount Group practice in the town centre practice won the integrated working for her work to make sure there is a management plan for every patient who leaves hospital with a breathing condition.
“I work to try to stop them having to be admitted,” she said. “Respiratory problems are an increasing issue.
“I’ve been nursing 44 years, and it is great to be recognised like this.”
She also takes charge of health plans for patients with learning disabilities dementia.
Health care assistant Ellie Pearson, from Dunsville Medical Practice, was the winner of the driving person-centred care award, with five separate nominations, two of which were from patients. One patient described her in her nomination as a pleasure to visit, making patients feel at ease. They said she was very gentle and took their minds off procedures by talking to them.
“I didn’t how much the patients thought of me,” she said. “It makes any bad days I have worth it.”
She hopes to become a practice nurse in the future.
Laura O’Neil, a general practice nurse from Scawsby Health Centre received 18 separate nominations from practice staff of all levels, nursing colleagues, GP partners and patients to win the rising star award in her first year as a GP practice nurse.
Although an experienced nurse she was new to practice nursing last year, having previously worked as a palliative care nurse at St John’s Hospice, in Balby, where her practice manager described her as “kind, caring, conscientious and hardworking” taking everything in her stride and ‘having a lovely manner’ with both patients and colleagues.
She said: “There was a lot of satisfaction in palliative are, knowing that you had made someone’s last days better.
“I love what I’m doing now, as part of a lovely team with just two GPs. We’ve made a few changes. Previously GPs did babies’ vaccines, but I've taken that on now.
“I didn’t realise people thought I was a rising star, and that is wonderful.”