Nurses And GPs – What Does The Shortage Mean?

Growing demands on NHS services means that doctors are facing increased pressure. An ageing population and the need for greater long-term care puts strain on GP surgeries, leading many doctors to walk away from the profession. With gaps to fill to help cope with the demand, it’s been suggested that nurses could fill them. Nurses and GPs are the key providers of public health services, and many nurses are already stepping up their responsibilities to cope with the demand. Could this be an appropriate solution, or does more need to be done to retain doctors and ease some of the pressure they face?

Are GP shortages set to increase?

The healthcare industry is facing increasing demand on services, with an ageing population to care for as well as difficulties in recruiting nurses and GPs. In a recent study by The King’s Fund, around a fifth of trainee doctors have said that they will work full-time after their qualify, and the same amount could see themselves working full-time in 10 years’ time. As trainee doctors look to other ways to boost their careers through portfolio work such as research, there could be even bigger gaps among GP practices putting further strain on services.

Is increased responsibility for nurses the solution?

One solution that’s been suggested to help address the situation is that advanced nurse practitioners take on more responsibility, with one study claiming that nurses would be able to do ‘70% of a GP’s workload’. In terms of managing long-term care, nurses would be able to provide care for patients with diabetes, etc. although doctors would still need to provide care for young children, pregnant women, etc. They would not be able to prescribe sick notes but could take on many of the other responsibilities of GPs. While the training for nurses is shorter and costs less than that of a doctor, there are some concerns about this suggestion.

Nursing applications are declining, with many factors at play. A reduced funding scheme means many can’t afford to train to become nurses, particularly at postgraduate level, while nurses are also turning away from the profession as a result of pressures within the industry and concerns over pay. Would increased responsibility change this?

This isn’t the first time that increased responsibility for nurses has been suggested. In 2016, it was reported that nurses were already filling many of the gaps left by doctors and that NHS bosses were in favour of training nurses to help them meet service demands. To do so effectively, nurses would require additional training, which could bring greater costs that could be spent on doctor training and other elements in need of funding.

Solutions for nurses and GPs

The NHS has been looking at different ways it can improve and evolve GP services. Suggestions of Skype calls and shared appointments are just some of the initiatives being trialled to see if they make a difference to patient care. Meanwhile, out of hours services are also growing in demand, providing a solution for healthcare professionals wanting to experience a different side of the public health system.

Through working in out of hours, nurses and GPs can experience a different pace and way of working compared to ordinary GP hours, helping to ease stress as well and assisting nurses and GPs with finding a working pattern that’s more suitable to their lives.

With a number of benefits associated with working out of hours, it’s something to consider. To find out more about out of hours working in Eat Berkshire, consult our blog for more information, and have a look at our latest job vacancies.