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Crystal Oldman: District nurses hold key to easing winter hospital crunch

District nurses are experts in the co-ordination and delivery of complex care in people’s homes, and recruiting more of them could ease winter pressures on hospitals, says QNI chief executive Crystal Oldman.
district

District nurses are experts in the co-ordination and delivery of complex care in peoples homes, and recruiting more of them could ease winter pressures on hospitals, says QNI chief executive Crystal Oldman

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens announced that 2,000 to 3,000 extra hospital beds will be freed up in the coming months to help the NHS cope with winter pressures.

This is understandable given the growing number of frail, older people with complex long-term conditions who have an increased risk of falls during winter and are vulnerable to exacerbations of their illnesses. Many also require additional care in the final weeks of their lives.

But evidence shows that hospitals are not always the best places to provide care for older

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District nurses are experts in the co-ordination and delivery of complex care in people’s homes, and recruiting more of them could ease winter pressures on hospitals, says QNI chief executive Crystal Oldman

district
Picture: Alamy

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens announced that 2,000 to 3,000 extra hospital beds will be freed up in the coming months to help the NHS cope with winter pressures.

This is understandable given the growing number of frail, older people with complex long-term conditions who have an increased risk of falls during winter and are vulnerable to exacerbations of their illnesses. Many also require additional care in the final weeks of their lives.

But evidence shows that hospitals are not always the best places to provide care for older people and can in fact do harm by increasing the risks of reduced mobility and declining independence over a relatively short time.

Care at home

Rather than focusing on the single solution of more hospital beds, we need greater investment in district nursing services. This would enable us to keep people safely cared for at home, even in the acute stages of illness.

There is a plethora of evidence demonstrating how highly skilled district nurses, who are experts in the co-ordination and delivery of complex care in people’s homes, can reduce hospital admissions.

This was added to recently by Queen’s Nurse and district nurse Liz Alderton, when she was shadowed by radio presenter Dr Kevin Fong for a programme on BBC Radio 4.

Liz’s patients said it all – without the expert services of their nurses and carers, they simply would not be able to stay at home.

So alongside the call for more hospital beds, or even instead of that, let’s call for more district nurses so more people can avoid a hospital admission, and patients can be discharged home in a safe and timely manner. 


Crystal Oldman is chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute

 

 

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