The increase in the number of students enrolling on district nurse specialist qualification programmes in the UK has started to plateau, and is ‘not sufficient’ to replace nurses who are due to retire, according to new data released by the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI).
There were 565 new entrants to the district nurse specialist practitioner programme for the 2015-16 year, one fewer than in 2014-15, breaking the trend of steady increases in new students on the programme in recent years. The 2014-15 figure of 566 was a 32.6% increase on 2013-14.
This is despite more universities in England being approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to provide the district nurse specialist practitioner qualification. The data for 2015-16 show that 35 universities in England were approved to run the programme – three more than in the previous year.
The number of universities in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland offering the programme did not change, leaving a total of 44 institutes in the UK offering a specialist qualification for those looking to become a district nurse.
Analysis of the number of nurses qualifying from these programmes shows that, although more qualified in 2016 than in any of the previous three years, the percentage increase has dropped dramatically (see table, below).
Number who qualified in 2013 (estimated maximum number)
Number who qualified in 2014
Number who qualified in 2015
Number who qualified in 2016
% increase from previous year
Source: QNI ‘Report on District Nurse Education in the United Kingdom 2015-16’
The data comes from the latest QNI report on district nurse education in the UK, obtained from an online survey of all 44 programme directors of courses in the UK, with 40 responding in full to the survey.
The report claims that numbers are a cause for concern for the profession.
It concludes: ‘The QNI is concerned that the significant increases in district nurse student numbers identified in the district nurse education audit between 2013/14 (QNI 2015) and 2014-15 (QNI 2016) appears to have reached a plateau. Therefore, the QNI has significant concerns that the number of district nurses qualifying will not be sufficient to meet the increased demand for district nursing services and to replace those due to retire.’