Editorial

District nurses deserve better support to ensure safe care

Community nursing services are often forgotten in debates about safe staffing levels.
District nursing

Community nursing services are often forgotten in debates about safe staffing levels

Campaigns for safe nurse staffing levels have focused invariably on our hospitals, where the absence of sufficient suitably qualified nursing staff is often easy to identify. However, the problem is just as prevalent in the community, where patients and other service users are suffering because district nurses and those in similar roles are overstretched.

Evidence that this is the case is presented in a report published by the health think tank the Kings Fund. Rising numbers of patients, increasingly complex conditions and a decline in the registered nursing workforce are creating a perfect storm, with the nurses who remain being left to bear the brunt.

The consequences are just as serious in the community as they are in hospitals. The reports authors say that patients complain of stressed staff being abrupt and rushed, visits

Community nursing services are often forgotten in debates about safe staffing levels

Campaigns for safe nurse staffing levels have focused invariably on our hospitals, where the absence of sufficient suitably qualified nursing staff is often easy to identify. However, the problem is just as prevalent in the community, where patients and other service users are suffering because district nurses and those in similar roles are overstretched.

Evidence that this is the case is presented in a report published by the health think tank the King’s Fund. Rising numbers of patients, increasingly complex conditions and a decline in the registered nursing workforce are creating a perfect storm, with the nurses who remain being left to bear the brunt.

The consequences are just as serious in the community as they are in hospitals. The report’s authors say that patients complain of stressed staff being abrupt and rushed, visits being postponed and a lack of continuity. Staff say they are being asked to undertake an increasingly task-based approach to care.

The solutions? According to the King’s Fund, these must include recognition of the importance of community nursing services and the creation of a sustainable district nursing workforce. In addition, robust methods of monitoring resources and activity should be developed, it argues.

A second report, issued by the Queen’s Nursing Institute on how safe caseloads should be identified, describes district nursing services as a ‘sponge that absorbs additional workload in an environment without the physical limits of a defined number of beds’. It is so much more important than that.


District nursing at ‘breaking point’, warns think tank

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