A shortage of resources for district nurses is harming patient care, a report from the King’s Fund has found.
According to the report, Understanding NHS financial pressures: How are they affecting patient care?, one in seven district nursing posts were lost between 2014 and 2016. It describes district nurses as acting as ‘shock absorbers’ for other parts of the NHS and social care system, making up for shortfalls in these areas without extra funding or staffing.
‘The work of district nurses in the community plays a crucial role in reducing and avoiding hospital admissions and supporting timely discharge,’ said Kathryn Yates, RCN professional lead for primary and community care. ‘Sufficient resources must be found to maintain an expert district nursing workforce that is fit for the future, and it must include “all community” nursing teams led by nurses with a specialist practice qualification in district nursing.’
According to the report, many district nursing staff are working overtime on a regular basis to cope with the workload. In turn, this is having a negative impact on staff wellbeing, often leading to low morale and high levels of stress, which in some cases seems unsustainable. Additionally, the quality of care delivered to patients is affected by the fact that staff are increasingly rushed, visits have become more task-focused, and there are less opportunities to conduct thorough assessments.
‘Patients waiting for district nurses at home are being let down as the funding pressures bite,’ said Janet Davies, chief executive of the RCN. ‘Nursing staff are straining to hold things together for their patients but they can only hold the fort for so long.’