A THIRD of GP practice nurses will go “imminently”, north Essex health bosses have warned.

Projections reveal 33 per cent - equivalent to 45 nurses - will retire in Colchester and Tendring in the next five years.

The “significant issue” has been revealed in meeting documents for the area’s GP Commissioning Committee - part of the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group.

Action is now being taken to urgently recruit more practice nurses to plug the gap.

Practice nurses support doctors in surgeries and can take blood tests, treat wounds, give vaccinations, do cervical smears and offer smoking cessation among their many roles.

The meeting papers said: “Data shows 33 per cent of our nursing workforce will be retiring in the next five years and this will lead to a significant issue for north east Essex practices.

“Reliance on the nursing workforce is significant in north east Essex. A high number of nurses are over 55 years and the system is set to lose 45 nurses imminently.”

A number of experienced nurses from the community and hospitals are already moving into GP surgeries, the committee has said.

Brigid-Ann Lord, Royal College of Nursing senior officer for mid Essex, said: “General practice nurses play a crucial role in delivering a quality service in primary care and deserve greater recognition for the care and service they provide.

“The Royal College of Nursing has long been raising issues regarding gaps in our nursing workforce, in primary care and elsewhere. This is also affected by large numbers retiring or leaving the profession for other reasons.

“We are calling for the Government to invest in training the nurses of the future, including investing a minimum of £1billion a year back into the system to support students.

“While this would help future workforce demands, action is also needed now to encourage nurses into general practice.”

A clinical commissioning group spokeswoman added: “We have a number of strategies to attract and retain the workforce within primary care.

“We are also focusing on ensuring easier access to training required for the nursing workforce to access roles in primary care.”

“Essex Primary Care Careers and North East Essex CCG are engaging with the nursing workforce through events and networking, attendance at and delivery of career and job fairs and we continue to work with the universities.”