Crisis deepens in district nursing as student numbers fall
New data show a 9% decrease, and Queen’s Nursing Institute says insufficient staff numbers are ‘contributing to delayed discharge and more hospital admissions’
The number of nursing students choosing to study district nursing has fallen by 9% in the past year, casting doubt over ambitious government plans to more than double district nurse training places by 2031.
In its latest review of district nurse education, Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) data show just 647 new students enrolled on a district nurse specialist practitioner qualification (DNSPQ) course in 2022-23, which it says represents a 9% drop from the previous year.
The report also shows 668 people qualified with a DNSPQ in 2021-22, a decrease of 6% on the previous year.
District nurse pay does not reflect complexity of care delivered, says QNI
The findings come as the government’s NHS long-term workforce plan, published in June, pledged to increase district nurse training places by 41% by 2028 and 150% – or 1,800 places – by 2031, in a bid to address workforce shortages.
The QNI said the number of students undertaking DNSPQs was concerning given the greater need for nursing care in the community.
QNI chief executive Crystal Oldman said: ‘Longer-term visions for the growth of the NHS workforce are to be encouraged and the number of qualified district nurses is a key component of the workforce.
‘The QNI is concerned that the salary Agenda for Change banding of many qualified district nurses does not reflect the complexity of care they deliver, which is at an advanced level of practice.’
The institute added that growth in community care was being ‘hampered by insufficient numbers of district nurses, contributing to delayed discharge and more hospital admissions’.
Lack of clarity around funding of qualification
The QNI’s education review, which surveyed 33 universities providing the DNSPQ, found widespread concern that uncertainty around central government funding for the qualification was hindering student recruitment. This uncertainty was resulting in employers having insufficient time to plan the release of nurses to undertake the programme, the QNI said.
The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.
Read the QNI report
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