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Community nurse shortage having ‘dire’ effect on patients

NHS community providers say government pledge to recruit 50,000 nurses before the end of this parliament will provide ‘little or no benefit’ to services
Children with autism or speech problems are having to face longer waits for help due to a shortage of nurses

NHS community providers say government pledge to recruit 50,000 nurses before the end of this parliament will provide ‘little or no benefit’ to services

A shortage of community nurses is leading to children with autism or speech problems facing longer waits for help, experts have warned.

NHS confederation and NHS Providers said there are growing vacancies for district nurses, health visitors, podiatrists, community dentists and speech and language therapists, warning that without action the waiting list for community care will continue to rise.

Community services affected as majority of new nurses working in hospitals

They said that the government’s pledge to recruit 50,000 more nurses before the end of this parliament will provide ‘little or no benefit’ to community

NHS community providers say government pledge to recruit 50,000 nurses before the end of this parliament will provide ‘little or no benefit’ to services

Children with autism or speech problems are having to face longer waits for help due to a shortage of nurses
Picture: iStock

A shortage of community nurses is leading to children with autism or speech problems facing longer waits for help, experts have warned.

NHS confederation and NHS Providers said there are growing vacancies for district nurses, health visitors, podiatrists, community dentists and speech and language therapists, warning that without action the waiting list for community care will continue to rise.

Community services affected as majority of new nurses working in hospitals

They said that the government’s pledge to recruit 50,000 more nurses before the end of this parliament will provide ‘little or no benefit’ to community services as the vast majority of new nurses are working in hospitals.

NHS Providers chief executive Saffron Cordery said shortages of community healthcare staff was having a ‘dire’ impact on patients.

‘We are seeing firsthand how delays to access for services such as speech and language therapy can have profound impacts for the rest of a child’s life, exacerbating long-standing health inequalities,’ she said.

Need fast national action, say NHS providers

‘Investing in community services could put us in a win-win situation, letting the NHS deliver higher quality care while reducing pressure on our urgent and emergency services, but we need national action on this, and fast.’

Both organisations called on the government to commit to a national workforce plan to plug gaps in vital services.

It comes after the NHS faced one of its worst months in July, with record numbers of patients waiting more than 12 hours to be admitted to hospital, alongside a record number of ambulance call-outs.

According to the latest workforce figures from NHS Digital there were 37,649 community nurses in England in April 2022. Vacancy rates from March 2022 show 1,868 vacancies.

District nurse numbers have fallen significantly in the past decade

Numbers of community nurses have been steadily declining over the past decade. In April 2010 there were 41,711 community nurses working in England’s NHS.

RCN chief executive Pat Cullen said nursing shortages were ‘biting particularly hard’ in community services.

‘The impact on patients must not be underestimated by ministers. It leads very directly to treatment delays and patient outcomes of every kind,’ she said.

‘The number of district nurses has fallen significantly in the last decade, while demand has soared and care needs have become increasingly complex.’


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