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District nursing: record year for uptake of specialist practitioner qualification

Growth in district nurse SPQ numbers enhances nurse leadership in the community
district nurse talks to patient during a home visit, as QNI announces rise in specialist practitioner qualifications

Growth in district nurse SPQ numbers points to continued need for advanced practice in the community

A record number of district nurses have attained their specialist practitioner qualification (SPQ).

Some 554 district nurses qualified as specialist practitioners in 2019/20, with an additional 121 whose two-year studies were delayed due to pandemic disruption, due to complete the course later this year.

This will mean that 675 district nurses will graduate with a SPQ, making the 2019/20 cohort the largest to gain the qualification since the Queens Nursing Institute (QNI) started recording numbers in 2013, when just 254 completed the programme.

In addition, 761 district nurses embarked on the SPQ course in 2019/20, with 819 signing up to begin their studies in 2020/21.

Growth in district nurse SPQ numbers points to continued need for advanced practice in the community

district nurse talks to patient during a home visit, as QNI announces rise in specialist practitioner qualifications
Picture: iStock

A record number of district nurses have attained their specialist practitioner qualification (SPQ).

Some 554 district nurses qualified as specialist practitioners in 2019/20, with an additional 121 whose two-year studies were delayed due to pandemic disruption, due to complete the course later this year.

This will mean that 675 district nurses will graduate with a SPQ, making the 2019/20 cohort the largest to gain the qualification since the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) started recording numbers in 2013, when just 254 completed the programme.

In addition, 761 district nurses embarked on the SPQ course in 2019/20, with 819 signing up to begin their studies in 2020/21.

Continued appetite for district nurse leadership education

The figures were revealed in the QNI’s annual report on district nursing education in the UK. QNI chief executive Crystal Oldman said they pointed to a continued need among employers for district nurses who can practise at an advanced level.

Dr Oldman said: ‘This was an exceptional year for the student intake and those continuing their two-year programmes, as all courses were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, these are extraordinary figures.’

She added it is unclear whether shortages of funding or study time might be curtailing the number of district nurses undertaking the programme, and this is an issue the QNI intends to investigate.

The QNI’s report is based on a survey of 43 universities, of which 38 responded, and of which 36 were running a district nurse SPQ.

NMC’s planned overhaul of specialist practitioner qualifications

The future of post-registration education standards is under review, with the Nursing and Midwifery Council consulting on a planned overhaul of specialist practitioner qualification (SPQ).

The regulator is proposing to replace five SPQs – for community children’s nursing, community learning disability nursing, community mental health nursing, general practice nursing and district nursing – with a single common standard. The consultation is due to end on 29 July.


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