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Fall in district nursing numbers a 'creeping tragedy'

Almost 1,000 district nursing posts have been cut in the past year, it is claimed.

The NHS Workforce Census show numbers fell from 9136 in 2010 to 8166 in 2011.

According to The Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI), there are now 36% fewer qualified district nurses than in 2001.

“The number of district nurses has been falling steadily for a decade and too little has been done to arrest this decline,” said Rosemary Cook CBE, Director of the QNI.

“The QNI has warned that the district nursing workforce is older than that of the nursing workforce as a whole and, due to service upheavals and other factors, many experienced district nurses have chosen to take retirement in recent years.”

Cook said district nurses are being “backfilled” with healthcare assistants and “other less qualified staff”.

The report issued by the NHS Information Centre notes the figures are only for nurses employed by the NHS, and excludes those working for the third sector or independent providers.

The QNI said this loss in information may account for the apparent large drop between 2010 and 2011.

“We are reaching the point where the district nursing service will not be able to regenerate because the workforce will be out of sight,” said Cook.

“This could be a creeping tragedy for patient care.”

She urged local and national healthcare planners to “act now” to halt the decline in district nursing posts “before it is too late”.

Question: Why are district nurses choosing to retire early?