Surgeries across the borough are benefiting from a scheme aimed at averting a crisis in nursing at GP practices.
It is estimated that around 46 per cent of Wigan’s nurses based in general practice will retire by 2026, with similar numbers expected in other areas too.
But now nursing students are being offered more opportunities to gain experience in GP surgeries in the hope they will consider working there.
So far it is proving to be successful, with the borough’s practices providing more student placements than elsewhere in Greater Manchester.
Sam Lacey, clinical lead for Wigan Enhanced Training Hub, said: “Historically you would only become a practice nurse after having at least two years experience on the ward.
“It was typically seen as something you did in the twilight years, as you approached retirement, because the hours were quite nice.”
A paper was published showing 53 per cent of nurses in practices chose to work there specifically for the hours.
Ms Lacey, who is based at Marus Bridge Practice, said: “It was in response to this that we needed to increase our numbers, to increase our workforce and future-proof ourselves.
“We know people are more likely to choose a career based on a good experience in their clinical training.”
The project has grown since it launched in September 2016 and half of the borough’s 62 practices are now involved.
A total of 47 student nurses have recently started placements at the surgeries.
They spend time shadowing the practice nurses, seeing patients and working as part of the practice team.
Ms Lacey said: “The feedback is absolutely fantastic. The data collection that we have is that none of them wanted to go into general practice nursing or had considered becoming a practice nurse as their career choice. One hundred per cent have done after the placement.”
It is vital to secure more nurses for GP practices ahead of the retirement of so many of the current staff.
But an increase is also needed in the overall number of nurses, as more care is delivered in the community rather than in hospitals.
Ms Lacey said: “We need a workforce that’s ready.
“We can only train for general practice in general practice. It’s a speciality on its own.”
Ms Lacey is delighted that so many surgeries in Wigan are happy to offer placements and believes patients are benefitting.
The scheme is being run across the country and has been included in the NHS 10-year plan in the hope it will continue to support more people into nursing.
The training hub is also looking at the new post of nursing associates to see how they can be implemented in general practice.
Their role is designed to sit between registered nurses and health care assistants, bridging the gaps in care, with the first cohort recently starting their substantive posts within Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust.
Ms Lacey said: “There is so much doom and gloom within the NHS but we have some great work going on in Wigan to develop our workforce and to make sure our mums and dads and ourselves get the most appropriate and quality care.”