The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) has called for immediate government action after new figures show that district nurse numbers have nearly halved in seven years.
The number of full-time district nurses working for the NHS in England has fallen 46.4% from May 2010 to July 2017, a report by the BBC has revealed.
The Royal College of Nursing says the data is reflective of its recent survey that suggested community teams are being stretched to the limit.
District nursing services keep patients at home and out of hospital, a key goal of NHS England’s strategy to cope with the ageing population, yet investment has not met demand.
QNI chief executive, Dr Crystal Oldman CBE, said: ‘The QNI has for some time raised significant concerns about the declining numbers in the community nursing workforce. These [latest] figures are alarming, given the UK policy imperatives for more care to be delivered in people’s homes and communities.
‘District nurses care for some of the most vulnerable in our society; ensuring that people remain safely cared for in their homes, maintaining independence and being supported to manage conditions or end-of-life care that might otherwise result in an admission to our overstretched hospital services. The current community nursing workforce is facing unprecedented challenges and the QNI is additionally concerned by evidence of a downward trajectory in the number of university places for district nurse training.
‘Government policy has placed increasing emphasis on care being provided in the community and in patients’ homes yet this has not, to date, been followed with the required investment in workforce numbers, resources and skills development. We call on the Government to take immediate action in developing a workforce plan for the district nursing service, supporting the health of communities in every village, town and city of the UK. We also hope to see the Chancellor respond by providing community nursing services with a much needed injection of new resources in tomorrow’s Autumn Budget.’