Chief nurses say community nursing is key to healthier future across UK

Community nursing holds key to tackling health challenges and inequalities in UK populations
Charlotte McArdle

Nurse leaders in Wales, England and Northern Ireland have indicated that community nursing is key to improving the health of their countries’ populations.

Chief nursing officer (CNO) for Wales Jean White said ageing populations and areas of deprivation reproduced similar health challenges across the UK.

‘We have to stop being obsessed with hospitals and instead become obsessed with community healthcare,’ Professor White told the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) conference in London today.

Charlotte McArdle
Chief nursing officer for Northern Ireland Charlotte McArdle. Picture: Barney Newman

CNO for Northern Ireland Charlotte McArdle agreed and said: ‘I see nursing outside hospitals as being central tenet of how we move forward in Northern Ireland.

‘Community nursing is an area that is underdeveloped and we need to address that.’

Overseas inspiration

Professor McArdle highlighted the country’s new district nursing framework, which she said would align and standardise the specialism across Northern Ireland.

She added that a team of senior nurses from Northern Ireland had recently visited the Netherlands to look at the Buurtzorg model of home care and anticipated future pilot schemes in the country.

Buurtzorg is a nurse-led home care system set up by former nurse Jos de Blok who sought to find an answer to financially stretched and fragmented care services.

Deputy CNO for England Ruth May, who is also NHS Improvement executive director of nursing, told delegates: ‘We need to make sure we professionally develop – I want to see community nursing leaders across a whole spectrum of programmes.'

No quick fix

All three nurses acknowledged the impact nurse staffing levels had on NHS health systems but agreed there was no quick fix solution to understaffing.  

Professor White said she was pressing for action in Wales to ensure five healthy lifestyle behaviours – evidenced by the well-known Caerphilly Study – were adopted. The five behaviours are:

  1. Non-smoking.
  2. Regular exercise
  3. A low BMI.
  4. A plant-based diet.
  5. Alcohol consumption within guidelines.

The study showed corresponding reductions of 73% in type 2 diabetes, 67% in vascular disease, 18% in cancer and 64% in dementia, added Professor White.