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Majority of district nurses ‘work in teams with unfilled posts’

RCN forum survey finds 70% of its members work in community teams that have vacancies, and only 58% hold ‘essential’ specialist qualification.
District nurse

An RCN survey of district nurses found more than 70% were working in community teams with unfilled posts.

The findings of the RCN district nursing forums online survey of its members were discussed during a fringe event at RCN congress in Liverpool on 17 May.

Specialist qualification

The main focus was on the Nursing and Midwifery Council-accredited specialist practice qualification (SPQ) which the forum wants to see protected and extended to all district nurse caseholders in the UK.

The SPQ is a year-long, full-time course in which community nurses develop skills such as health assessment, prescribing, research and leadership.

The survey of all 2,400 forum members was conducted in December 2016. It received 381 responses, predominately from female district nurses aged

An RCN survey of district nurses found more than 70% were working in community teams with unfilled posts.


Members reported ‘no additional investment’ to meet increased workload challenges due to delivering more patient care at home. Picture: iStock

The findings of the RCN district nursing forum’s online survey of its members were discussed during a fringe event at RCN congress in Liverpool on 17 May.

Specialist qualification

The main focus was on the Nursing and Midwifery Council-accredited specialist practice qualification (SPQ) which the forum wants to see protected and extended to all district nurse caseholders in the UK.

The SPQ is a year-long, full-time course in which community nurses develop skills such as health assessment, prescribing, research and leadership.

The survey of all 2,400 forum members was conducted in December 2016. It received 381 responses, predominately from female district nurses aged over 40. More than 25% had over 20 years of community nursing experience. The survey found:

  • 73% said there were current vacancies in their teams.
  • 81% reported newly qualified staff had recently been recruited to their teams and been given the title community staff nurse.
  • 83% reported there had been ‘no additional investment’ in their local area in response to workload challenges related to delivering more patient care closer to home.
  • 89% felt it was important the SPQ was protected. Where trusts don’t support SPQs, more than 70% of respondents said they were likely to be offered leadership training instead, with 66% likely to be sent for advanced health assessment training.
  • 58% of those surveyed held the SPQ, and 67% felt that the qualification was ‘essential to manage a caseload’.

Fringe event co-host Julie Green explained the session was also intended to provide an update on the resolution the forum passed at last year’s congress, which called on RCN council to lobby for all district nurse caseholders to have the SPQ.

‘Fragmented’

Highlighting the current variation in district nursing across the four countries of the UK, Ms Green described the situation in England as a ‘fragmented landscape’. She explained that in Scotland the career path for community nurses is being redeveloped following health and social care integration in April 2016.

All district nurse caseholders in Northern Ireland currently hold SPQs, while in Wales it is only compulsory for Band 7 nurses.

Ms Green said: ‘The past year has been all about taking this work forward. We’ve achieved a lot, but there’s plenty more work to do to promote the district nursing service and fight to ensure everyone holds the SPQ.’


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