District nursing heads into perfect storm, with demand rising as workforce dwindles

Queen’s Nursing Institute calls on next government to invest in staffing as survey finds unpaid overtime is the norm for many

Queen’s Nursing Institute calls on next government to invest in staffing as survey finds unpaid overtime is the norm for many

Picture: Science Photo Library

An ageing workforce, unpaid overtime and rising demand are all contributing to a 'perfect storm' in district nursing, according to a leading nursing charity.

A major new report by the Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI) claims the UK's district nurse workforce is under 'severe threat' from long-term under-investment in training, education and skills.

Findings of the latest QNI report on UK district nursing workforce

Key findings of the District Nursing Today report, which is based on a survey of 2,858 district nurses, include:

  • One in five respondents work a day or more of unpaid overtime every week
  • Most respondents were aged over 45 years, with 46% planning to retire or leave within six years
  • 36% reported a lack of efficient IT to be their job properly
  • Almost a third of teams manage a caseload of 400+ patients, while 75% of respondents report vacancies or frozen posts in their team

Six months ago, a joint report by the QNI and RCN, stated that the number of district nurses working for the NHS in England had plummeted by 43% in the past decade, leaving a scant 4,000 to care for a population of 55.8 million people. 

The latest report found variation in the pay of district nurses acting as team leaders, and significant regional variation in the pay band of those with the specialist practitioner qualification.

Match future capacity to increased demand for services

The QNI is now calling on the future government to put significant investment into training, education and development.

QNI chief executive Crystal Oldman said: 'We need to return workforce numbers to what they were in 2011, or better. More research is needed to ascertain the future capacity and capability of a district nursing workforce that can respond to increasing demand.'

QNI fellow Alison Leary, chair of healthcare workforce modelling at London South Bank University said: 'We are seeing a perfect storm with a set of circumstances that, if left untended, without intervention from government, directly threaten patient safety.'

The QNI has also launched the International Community Nursing Observatory to collate and analyse data and trends in the community nursing workforce at a regional, national and international level.

It will be chaired by Professor Leary.

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