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QNI voices concern over future of district nurse workforce

Falling numbers of students on district nursing courses triggers workforce warning.

The Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI) has expressed concern about the future of the district nursing workforce, following its latest report on education.


District nursing student numbers are down this year. Picture: John Houlihan

The 2015-16 report on district nurse education, published today at the QNI annual conference in London, shows student numbers have slowed after an increase in recent years.

Only 554 new students were enrolled in specialist district nursing programmes in 2016-17, a 2% drop since the previous year.

Given the numbers who retire from the service annually, the QNI is concerned this will represent a major challenge to current and future recruitment efforts to district nursing teams.

Worrying trend

QNI chief executive Crystal Oldman said: 'We are concerned by the long-term trend of district nurse student numbers and of the number of universities that are able to offer a viable district nurse specialist practitioner qualification (SPQ).'

Dr Oldman said the value of the SPQ to nurses and to patient care had been demonstrated by the QNI’s own independent research, commissioned by the Department of Health in 2015.

Increased complexity

She said: ‘As more and more highly complex care is delivered and managed in the community, the more important it is that highly skilled district nurses are managing community teams – which are often large and have a high degree of skill mix.

Other findings in the report, the fourth the charity has published, include:

  • 517 district nurse specialist practitioners qualified in 2016, compared to 479 in 2015 and 382 in 2014.
  • 40 universities responded to the survey and of those, two did not run the programme and one did not intend to offer it in future.
  •  82% of universities had mapped their programmes to the QNI/QNIS Voluntary Standards for District Nurse Education and Practice (2015).

Specialty's importance

Dr Oldman added that the QNI plans to commission further work to show how specialist practitioner training leads to high-quality, patient-centred care and enables people to be safely and sensitively cared-for at home, rather than in hospital.

Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, director of nursing and deputy director of education and quality at Health Education England said: 'Key to getting the numbers right for district nurses is understanding the needs of local people and the approaches employers are taking to meet demand from their ever-changing local populations.
 
“We will shortly be starting a piece of work to better understand the future needs of nursing in the community. Stakeholder input will be key and we will of course involve QNI.'
 

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