Nursing in Practice Autumn 2021 (issue 121) - Page 12
12 COVER STORY
We went into the pandemic with far too few GPs , nurses and wider practice staff , so practices were already struggling
Dr Richard Vautrey humidity in autumn and winter are linked to increased transmission of flu and other respiratory viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus , which causes coughs and colds and is the most common cause of bronchiolitis in children aged under age two . Because lockdowns cut transmission rates of these viruses last year , clinicians believe immunity against them will be lower and they will be more common than usual in the coming months .
Flu cases in the community were about 95 % lower than normal last season , according to the Royal College of General Practitioners . And in a letter to practices in July , NHS England warned : ‘ It is expected that winter 2021 to 2022 will be the first winter in the UK when seasonal influenza ( and other respiratory viruses ) will co-circulate alongside Covid-19 .’
Of course , nurses may catch these viruses themselves . Practices are already short staffed but they may see greater numbers of nurses going sick or leaving the profession , which will increase pressure on those left .
‘ Burnout is a real issue ’ Ms Monteiro says this pressure is having a ‘ domino effect ’ on nursing . ‘ There is a chronic shortage of practice nurses . It ’ s hard to get a fully qualified nurse who can do diseases on top of screening and treatment room duties , and everything else a practice nurse does . It ’ s a result of a lack of long-term investment . But Covid has definitely worsened staff shortages through burnout , sickness and people leaving the profession .’
The practice nurse based in the south-west of England admits to Nursing in Practice : ‘ For the first time in 25 years , I am thinking about leaving practice nursing . Two of my senior colleagues are also in that position . I think burnout is a real issue . I think we ’ ve been really unrecognised during Covid .’ Bradford-based practice nurse Naomi Berry agrees : ‘ Morale is not good . A lot of GP nurses are leaving . A lot are saying it ’ s not worth it , things are getting harder and they ’ re not appreciated . We can ’ t do more than what we ’ re doing .’
Ms de Chenu says : ‘ I ’ ve never been as busy in summer as this year . Normally , we ’ d have set dates and clinics for the
start of term , and know how many international students are coming . We ’ ve been working flat out for 18 months . We only just stopped vaccinating and now we have to start again .’ Heather Randle , professional lead for education and primary care at the RCN , says : ‘ We shouldn ’ t underestimate the resourcefulness of nurses in general practice , but they are tired and overworked . They ’ re coming a point now where they can ’ t do the things they ’ re being asked to do . Something must give . On the ground , I ’ m starting to hear of people retiring earlier . If lots of these nurses are going to stay , they need to start feeling valued as part of the team that has been vital to fighting Covid and they need a chance to rest .’
The BMA petition for more government funding , which is part of its Support Your Surgery campaign , calls for extra resources to ‘ urgently increase the number of GPs , practice nurses and other practice staff and improve the premises in which they work ’. Will the Government heed this call ?
In a statement released to Nursing in Practice , the DHSC said : ‘ We ’ re hugely grateful to GPs and their teams for their hard work and dedication , bringing appointment numbers back to pre-pandemic levels with over 330 million appointments delivered in the last year .’ It highlighted the £ 270m extra given to general practice but could not say whether there would be any further additional support .
But as BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Nursing in Practice : ‘ We went into the pandemic with far too few GPs , nurses and wider practice staff , meaning practices were already struggling to meet the needs of patients safety .
‘ As we head into what looks to be one of the most difficult winters most of us will ever have experienced there needs to be an understanding of the huge pressure on practices .’ Dr Vautrey wants patients to join healthcare staff in calling on ministers to allocate funding to help practices cope .
Before the Government ’ s autumn / winter plan was unveiled , Boris Johnson warned : ‘ The pandemic is far from over .’ The prime minster will be heavily reliant on the NHS to protect the country but he may find if he allows funds to run low in practices , morale and staff numbers may also fall . nursinginpractice . com Autumn 2021