New career framework for nurse practitioners aims to boost workforce

The new framework, which was commissioned by NHS England and developed by HEE and Skills for Health, sets out six career levels for nurses in primary care and aims to provide a clear skills structure for staff.

It details the skills, knowledge and behaviors general practice and primary care nurses will need at each of these levels. NHS England said it would help practices invest in and develop their nursing staff and help retain staff.

RCGP backed the framework, saying it comes at a “critical time” for GP staff.

Recent workforce figures showed that the full-time equivalent (WTE) fully qualified GP workforce fell by 369 GPs in the year to March 2022. Between Meanwhile, an analysis by GPonline suggests that the government plans to recruit 26,000 staff by 2024 to support general practice through the Supplementary Roles Reimbursement Scheme is also behind schedule.

Career development for nurses

RCGP Chairman Professor Martin Marshall said: “Nurses remain an absolutely fundamental part of the primary care team. We need to ensure that nurses have the right structures and support for their career development, to encourage more people to enter general practice nursing positions and to retain them so that they can continue to provide the excellent care that patients need.

HEE said the framework would also ensure that workforce planners understand the role of primary care nurses and how they could help meet the needs of local populations.

The six levels covered by the framework are:

  • Support practice at the work level
  • Nurse Associate/Assistant Practitioner Level Practice
  • Registered Nurse Level Practice
  • Registered nurse: advanced level practice
  • Registered Nurse: advanced level practice
  • Registered Nurse: Consultant Level Practice

The framework sets out a description for each level of practice, including the requirements for a nurse or support worker to work at that level. It then defines 13 abilities and provides details of what an individual should do in each of these areas across three levels and provides a guide on how these levels relate to levels of practice.

This approach gives employers “maximum flexibility” when deciding what skills are needed for a particular role, the executive says.

Career progression opportunities

Hilary Garrett, Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “This updated framework will help support our general practice nurses, nurse trainees and associate nurses, and healthcare support workers to improve their knowledge, skills and abilities to deliver the NHS for the long term Plan ambitions and meet the health needs of people in the communities in which they work.

“The new framework creates opportunities for the GP team to invest in and grow their own nursing workforce. It aims to support staff in their career progression and to promote the retention of nursing staff in primary care.

Professor Mark Radford, Chief Nursing Officer at HEE, said: “Primary care and general practice are constantly evolving to meet the growing and more complex needs of local populations. This requires new ways of working and developing primary care teams, so that they are supported in their work and have opportunities for career progression.

The frame is here

Michael A. Bynum