Nurses voted for the RCN to lobby for all district nurses to hold the specialist practitioner qualification (SPQ).
Julie Bliss, from the RCN's district nurses' forum, put forward the proposal, saying that many nurses are handling high caseload numbers without the correct qualifications. She cited doctoral research found that district nurses were constantly juggling clinical duties with managing teams.
Many speakers spoke passionately about the crucial role district nurses play in care with one speaker saying that 'district nurses were worth their weight in gold'.
Victoria Whittingham, from the East Dorset branch, said that the district nurse caseload manager is 'essential for care and caseload managers need the qualifications and skills to support this.
Woven into the debate was the concern that there is a severe shortage of district nurses and most speakers spoke in support of the motion to encourage more nurses into the profession.
Soline Jerram, a non-voting member, however highlighted that the SPQ is not the only qualification which can prepare nurses to case manage in the community. 'As we are recognising many other nurses can case manage in the community. We need to have more than one option for nurses to develop further. If we really feel that this is the only qualification to prepare nurses for complex roles then it should be the case for all nurses.' She instead said that there should be support for improvement and planning for all nurses taking the next step up the ladder.
Ms Bliss closed the debate by saying that she recognises that leadership and planning was a part of many nurses' roles. She said one of the challenges was to look at who community and district nurse teams are and that the SPQ is required to identify district nurses.
With 32 votes against and 17 abstentions the motion was passed.
Crystal Oldman, the chief executive of the Queen's Nursing Institute, called the result a 'major achievement' and the 'QNI commends the RCN District Nurse Forum for pursuing this critical issue.'