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District nurse audit reveals England and Scotland are falling behind in student enrolment

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England and Scotland lag behind in enrolment Wales and Northern Ireland have significant increases in student enrolment for the Specialist Practitioner course

The Queen’s Nursing Institute has released its sixth annual audit of district nurse education in the UK, which reveals a significant increase in student numbers in Wales and Northern Ireland, but not England or Scotland.

The District Nurse Education Report received survey responses from 37 universities that ran the Specialist Practitioner course in the academic year 2017-18. Completion of this course gives students the District Nurse Specialist Practitioner Qualification (DNSPQ). The overall trends show an increase in the number of nurses qualifying and 87% of the respondents were confident that the programme would continue to run, despite funding concerns.

However, the audit revealed that shorter courses are becoming more common, with more courses under 40 weeks being available and fewer courses over 52 weeks being available. Dr Crystal Oldman CBE, QNI Chief Executive, commented on this trend, saying, ‘the QNI is concerned that this trend could have adverse effects on student learning, given the growing complexity and challenges of the modern District Nursing team leader role, which the DNSPQ is designed to prepare students for’.

Although the overall trends show a 20% increase in enrolment from the 2014-15 academic year, the individual country statistics reveal England and Scotland appear to be lagging behind the rest of the UK in terms of the number of students enrolling on the course. Northern Ireland and Wales showed significant increases of 71% and 124% respectively. However, Scotland showed only a 9% increase and England was worst of all, with only a 5% increase.

‘District nursing is an attractive route for nurses as NHS community care becomes more innovative. We can see why more nurses are interested in getting the necessary qualifications to work in this field when it promises an independent, largely autonomous scope of practice,’ said Wendy Preston, Royal College of Nursing Head of Nursing Practice. ‘Investing in an expert district nursing workforce and community services must be the priority to keep patients out of hospital. This research helps us make the case for staffing for safe and effective care in every country of the UK’.

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