Charity says urgent investment is needed to curb fall in district nurse numbers

Report from Queen’s Nursing Institute warns that the safety of patients is being jeopardised

Report from Queen’s Nursing Institute warns that the safety of patients is being jeopardised

Picture: iStock

Investment in district nursing is not an ‘optional extra’, and falling numbers across the profession should be a ‘wake-up call’, the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) has said.

A report published by the charity shows a 10.25% fall in the number of district nurse specialist practitioners who qualified in the UK between 2016 and 2017 – from 517 to 464 respectively.

The number of new entrants to district nursing courses fell by 14 in 2016-17 compared with the previous year, which is the first drop in numbers since the QNI began its annual audits in 2013. 

The revelations follow a report published by the Commons health and social care committee earlier this year, which revealed the number of district nurses in England had fallen by 45% between 2010 and 2017.

Worrying picture 

The QNI’s report, District Nurse Education in the United Kingdom 2016-2017, also warns of the profession’s situation in England.

It states: ‘In the context of the five years during which the QNI has been gathering data about the number of district nursing courses being offered, and the number of students enrolled on these courses, the number of qualified district nurses recorded in NHS workforce statistics in England has continued to fall.’ 

The Scottish and Welsh governments have committed to investing in community nursing.

Prioritising patient safety

QNI chief executive Crystal Oldman said the public needed to know what is happening to the profession.

‘The policy of moving care to people’s homes is not being supported by a skilled workforce undertaking complex care in a challenging environment,’ she said.

‘The training to deliver this is not an optional extra; this is about patient safety.

‘We need investment from the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) to provide a pipeline of district nurses coming through.’

A DH spokesperson said: ‘Community health services play a vital role in keeping people healthy and independent. That’s why we are working to attract more people to district nursing in England, offering £10,000 ‘golden hellos’ to postgraduate nurses, as well as expanding routes into the profession by developing an apprenticeship scheme.

‘Health Education England, meanwhile, is investigating the reasons for the small decline in district nursing student numbers.’

Maintaining standards

London South Bank University healthcare and workforce modelling chair Alison Leary said: ‘This [district nursing] work carries a high degree of risk and must be done to a certain standard.

‘Employers and commissioners need to see the value of these roles.’

Read the QNI’s report

District Nursing Education in the United Kingdom 2016-2017

In other news

RCN demands findings of safeguarding review at learning disabilities hospital

Children and young people’s mental health nursing faces a perfect storm, MPs hear

This is a free article for registered users

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.