There has been a sharp fall in numbers of nurses in the community since 2010 a report published by the RCN has found.
The report, Frontline first: The fragile frontline, found that while the total number of nurses working in community settings has increased, this was largely down to the government's launch of the health visitor implementation plan, which aimed to increase the size of the health visiting workforce to 12,200 by March 2015. The report says that this increase masked the decline of other community nurses, with a loss of 3332 posts once the increase in health visitors has been deducted.
This has disproportionately affected some roles. For example, between May 2010 and December 2014, there was a 28% reduction in numbers of specialist district nurses, a loss of 2168 posts in England. The report also found that there has been drastic reductions in the numbers of learning disability and mental health nurses, which lost 1586 and 3986 nurses respectively. The report stated that as emphasis has been given to acute services post-Francis, mental health and community nursing has been 'over-looked'.
Dr Peter Carter, the chief executive of the RCN, said: 'We warned that cutting the workforce numbers to fund the NHS reorganisation and to find the efficiency savings was the wrong course to take. The cuts were so severe that we are only just catching up with where we were five years ago. Many areas, like district nursing and mental health, are even worse off.'