The QNI has been calling for an increase in the number of qualified district nurses for the last two years through our Right Nurse, Right Skills campaign. We also recently undertook a piece work to identify how many district nursing courses were running in September 2012 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and how many district nurse students started their programmes at that time.
Findings showed 21% (7 out of 33 universities) of the NMC-approved district nurse programmes in England did not have a cohort starting in September 2012. Of those that did have a cohort in England, at least 67% (16 out of 24) of cohorts had 10 students or less on the programme.
It is essential there are enough appropriately qualified, skilled district nurses to provide the care patients and carers need. The legitimate policy of encouraging local decision-making must not translate into local lack of interest, with devaluation of the district nursing qualification.
Those with responsibility for commissioning local community nursing services need to recognise the importance of those services being led by an appropriately qualified team leader and commission the services accordingly.
Alongside this, those responsible for commissioning the local education and training of the community teams need to ensure sufficient numbers of district nurses are being trained each year to meet the current and the anticipated demand for their services.
Without a significant investment now into the right nurse with the right community specialist practice skills, the NHS will be ill equipped to respond to the needs of the people it serves. Now is the time to reverse the trend and to place the needs of the patient and the carer in the community at the centre of the service and education commissioning process.
I have every confidence action is being taken and am delighted the QNI has been able to contribute with this report.