District nurses: Labour to double number who qualify each year
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves makes pledge, along with extra 10,000 nursing and midwifery clinical placements a year, funded by 45% tax rate for high earners
Labour has pledged to double the number of district nurses qualifying every year in ‘one of the biggest NHS workforce expansions in history’ if it wins the next general election.
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves made the announcement yesterday at the party’s annual conference, adding that Labour would also train an extra 5,000 health visitors and create an extra 10,000 nursing and midwifery clinical placements every year.
Labour says it will fund district nursing investment by restoring 45% top rate of income tax
These measures would be funded by reintroducing the top rate of income tax (45%) for high earners, which chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng scrapped in his first ‘mini-budget’ last week. Labour says this will raise more than £2bn a year.
The number of qualifying district nurses would rise from 700 to 1,400 a year, Labour promised – a move it says would cost around £40 million per year based on current levels of qualifications. The extra clinical placements would cost around £51 million.
Speaking at the annual Labour party conference in Liverpool, Ms Reeves said: ‘I can tell you: with a Labour government, those at the top will pay their fair share. The 45p top rate of income tax is coming back. Here’s what we will do with that money.
‘The next Labour government will double the number of district nurses qualifying every year and create an additional 10,000 nursing and midwife placements every year.
‘More than that, we will implement the biggest expansion of medical school places in British history, doubling the number of medical students, so our NHS has the doctors it needs.’
Decline in numbers of community nurses sparks concern for vulnerable patients
The number of community nurses in the NHS in England has been steadily declining over the past decade. There were 37,649 community nurses in England in April 2022, according to the latest workforce figures from NHS Digital, compared to 41,711 in April 2010.
Vacancy rates from March 2022 show 1,868 district nurse posts in England were unfilled.
The decline in numbers has sparked concerns about the effects on vulnerable patients, with nursing leaders recently suggesting a shortage of community nurses is leading to children with autism or speech problems facing longer waits for help.
NHS Confederation and NHS Providers previously said the government’s pledge to recruit 50,000 more nurses before the end of this parliament would provide ‘little or no benefit’ to community services as the vast majority of new nurses are working in hospitals.
RCN says Labour must understand wider NHS problems
But RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said for Labour to ‘succeed where others have failed’, they need to understand the retention and recruitment problem in the NHS.
‘While potentially addressing some workforce gaps – such as district nurses – the problem across the system is far greater,’ she added.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it was more than halfway towards meeting its target of recruiting 50,000 more nurses by 2024.
They added: ‘It is fantastic to see so many people choose a career in nursing. Acceptances to undergraduate nursing courses in England remain high, with 21,490 applicants accepting a place in 2022 – a 20% increase compared to 2019. In recent years, Health Education England has also invested £55 million to expand placement numbers.’
In other news