Exclusive: Health Education England (HEE) will increase its funding for district nurse special practitioner qualification (DN SPQ) in the academic year 2022/23.
However, Professor Mark Radford, chief nurse at HEE, told Nursing in Practice: ‘In England we have increased funding for DN SPQ year-on-year since 2017, and 22/23 will see further investment growth on the previous year.
‘We know how important the district nurse role is and how much communities and patients value the care they provide, which is why we are committed to continuing to develop this vital workforce.’
HEE did not specify funding levels.
The QNI report had found that there was a 26% increase of programmes in receipt of apprenticeship funding.
This shift in funding led one respondent to say that ‘the future looks like apprenticeship funding and not HEE funding’, while another claimed that ‘there are concerns around the transition period between the apprenticeship and the possible ending of HEE funding’.
The report concluded that ‘central funding for post-registration nurse education is agreed only on an annual basis by the Treasury, which appears to contribute to a climate of uncertainty for HEIs and may act as an unwarranted brake on investment in the system’.
QNI chief executive Dr Crystal Oldman explained that the ‘poorly timed funding cycle’ may lead to SPQ places going unfilled.
She said: ‘The anxiety experienced by universities about the funding is created because they are notified just a few weeks before their programmes are due to commence about the level of funding available from HEE for district nursing programmes.
‘This gives insufficient time for community service providers to work with the universities to plan their recruitment to the programmes, which may then lead to places not being filled.
‘If places go unfilled, this creates a loss of income to the universities, with programmes becoming potentially financially unviable. Small programme numbers lead to a perception that the district nurse programme is not in demand, when in reality it is the poorly timed annual funding cycle which has led to this situation.
‘This has serious consequences for workforce planning in community services providers, leading to the potential inability to deliver on government policies of more care being delivered in the home. It is a system which is broken and needs urgent attention, with funding secured to allow robust workforce planning.’
Many respondent’s to the QNI’s district nurse education report in 2021 reported fears that funding from HEE for places will be scrapped or reduced and replaced with the apprenticeship model in England.
This comes after a district nurse apprenticeship standard was approved by the NMC in February 2019.