Community nursing in England is in a “lamentable” state, nursing leaders claimed late last week.
Official figures show the number of district nurses has fallen by 40% over the last ten years, from 13,000 to fewer than 7,500.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) said the situation is adding to pressure on hospitals.
According to RCN chief executive Peter Carter the state of community nursing is currently “lamentable”.
He told the BBC: “With this huge reduction in the numbers of district nurses, while at the same time the massive growth in the population and more and more people with complex conditions, I have to say unfortunately we really are failing people who deserve so much more.”
Community nursing charity the QNI agreed, expressing worries about the “loss of skills and capacity in community nursing teams.”
"Qualified district nurses are specialist practitioners in community nursing and are absolutely central to patient-centred care in the NHS. High-quality community nursing services are imperative if we are to support people with long-term conditions to stay in their own homes, rather than be admitted to hospital."
In a statement, NHS England said although district nurse numbers had fallen, the overall number of community nurses - including other types of staff - had increased by more than 8%.
"What is important is getting the right staff to deliver the services patients require. To achieve this commissioners need to have clear and robust plans for community nursing services, both now and in the future."