The number of district nurses who gained a specialist practitioner qualification (SPQ) within a year period is down by 6%, new research has revealed.
The Queen’s Nursing Institute has today unveiled its latest review of district nurse education, sparking fresh concerns about the workforce and funding for the SPQ.
Launched in 2013, this annual audit of district nurse SPQ programmes across the UK comprises survey findings and comments from educators delivering the programmes.
Headline findings from the new report show 668 district nurses qualified with a SPQ in the 2021/22 academic year – down 6% from the previous year.
Meanwhile, 647 new students enrolled onto the district nurse SPQ for 2022/23 – down 9% on the previous year. Some 54 of those newly enrolled are on the apprenticeship route in England.
The QNI said one of the issues impacting the number of students enrolled each year was down to ‘uncertainty and late notification’ of confirmed central funding from the government for universities and employers.
This results in employers ‘not having sufficient time to plan the release of nurses to undertake the programme’, warned the charity.
While it appears the direction of travel from ministers is to focus for more care to be delivered in the community, the QNI said this was ‘being hampered by insufficient numbers of district nurses’.
And this comes amid a push from the recent NHS Long Term Workforce Plan to significantly increase the number of training places for district nurses in England by more than 150% by 2031/32.
QNI chief executive Dr Crystal Oldman said: ‘Longer term visions for the growth of the NHS workforce are to be encouraged and the number of qualified district nurses is a key component of the workforce.’
She added that the district nurse SPQ was an ‘an educational programme designed for the community setting and it should be integral to the government’s plans to increase the number of skilled, registered practitioners in the community’.
In addition, Dr Oldman said the charity was ‘concerned’ that the Agenda for Change banding for many district nurses ‘does not reflect the complexity of care they deliver, which is at an advanced level of practice’.