The number of training places for district nurses in England will increase by more than 150% by 2031/32, under ambitions outlined in the newly published NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.
The highly anticipated plan, published in full this morning, sets out NHS England’s commitments to increase nurse training places across the country by 80% – to more than 53,500 – by 3031/32.
It includes a significant increase in the number of training places for district nurses, school nurses and health visitors in the near- and medium-term.
The plan’s assessment is that the number of training places for district nurses will grow by 41% in the next five years (2028/29). It said this supported an ‘ambition’ to increase places by 150% – to nearly 1,800 a year – by 2031/32.
In addition, the number of training places for school nurses would increase by 28% by 2028/29, also supporting an ambition to ‘nearly double’ training places to more than 650 by 2031/32.
Dr Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI), welcomed the investment into the district nursing workforce and said that the QNI ‘would be very interested to understand the evidence base for the growth, including the demand modelling’.
Dr Oldman also pointed out that previous QNI evidence suggested the need for an additional 1,400 district nurses per year, noting that ‘it is good to see an increase to 1,800 in the next five years’.
However, Dr Oldman also told Nursing in Practice that general practice and care home nursing must be ‘taken into account with an increase in numbers too’.
The workforce plan also highlighted the importance of the health visiting and said this part of the workforce was ‘fundamental to improving the health and wellbeing of families’, and that ‘by providing support in the community, they help alleviate pressures on hospital care’.
Consequently, NHS England predicted that education and training routes for health visiting will need to expand by between 32% and 74% in the next decade.
It is the ‘ambition’ of the plan to expand training places by 74% to over 1,300 health visitors by 2031/32, with a 17% expansion planned for the next five years.
Alison Morton, chief executive of the Institute of Health Visiting, said she was ‘particularly pleased’ to see the plan extending into public health and health visiting.
Ms Morton said the plan will ‘put the brakes on the catastrophic 40% workforce loss that the profession has experienced in the last eight years’.
She added: ‘If fully implemented, the commitments in this plan send a strong message of the government’s long-term commitment to health visiting, ending years of uncertainty that will bring hope and much-needed sustainability back into our profession.’
However, Ms Morton maintained that ‘we still need to work through the details of the numbers proposed to ensure that they address the level of need.’
These specific commitments to the community nursing workforce come amid a broader commitment to the expansion of nursing education in the country.
As part of this, training places for learning disability nursing and mental health nursing are planned to expand by 92-100% and 74-93% respectively by 2030/31 – two areas which have experienced severe staff shortages in recent years.
This would mean more than 11,000 training places for mental health nurses and over 1,000 places for learning disability nursing.
However, as reported previously, some universities have found themselves closing learning disability nursing courses in recent years due to a lack of applications.
One of the few sections of the workforce to not see an expansion however is children’s nursing, as the plan states that there is ‘currently a sufficient number of training places to meet demand’.