District nursing: £18.5m course funding aims to boost staff numbers in England

Money will help community nurses transition to the specialty

Money will help community nurses transition to the specialty

Picture: Neil O’Connor

Further funding of £18.5 million has been announced in England that will enable community nurses to undertake a course to become district nurses.  

The money from Health Education England (HEE) will allow the specialist practitioner qualification (SPQ) course in district nursing, which was due to end in 2019-20, to be offered for a further year. 

The SPQ programme enables adult, child, mental health and learning disability nurses working in the community to become district nurses.

Community nurses’ employers can sponsor them to undertake the course, which runs for 32 weeks and comprises 50% theory and 50% practice.

Slow rise in student numbers

News of the extra funding coincided with the publication of a Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) report on district nursing education in the UK.

The QNI revealed that the number of students starting the SPQ course in England had only risen by 5% between 2014-15 and 2017-18, from 446 to 467.

In May, a report by the RCN and the QNI revealed that the number of NHS district nurses in England had dropped by 43% in the past 10 years – from 7,055 to 4,031.

QNI chief executive Crystal Oldman

QNI chief executive Crystal Oldman said the HEE investment would help grow numbers on the SPQ programme.

‘To have confirmation of funding of course fees, and salary support, so early in the recruitment cycle will support providers to fill every place for district nurse training and education,’ she said.

HEE’s new investment will also support the district nursing apprenticeship programme in 2020-21.

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