At least 50 per cent of student nurses will complete community placements as part of the training by March 2015, in a bid to train a multidisciplinary workforce to work in both hospitals and the community, ministers have confirmed.
The measures, which will be backed with a £5 billion investment from the DH, are part of the government's mandate to Health Education England, an organisation set up to provide education and training to all NHS employees.
The RCN welcomed the proposals, which have been designed to bolster the number of district nurses. It expressed concern last week that patients are facing longer hospital stays due to under-resourced community services because the number of district nurses in the UK has fallen by 42 per cent over the past decade.
But RCN director of policy Howard Catton argued that, while the change would be a step in the right direction in the long-term, it was questionable whether existing community nurses would have the resources to provide mentorships to students in the community. He pointed out that, on hospital wards, there are many more nurses available to guide students.
He added: 'In the short term, we need the right nurses in the right place. The care is moving into the community, but nurses are not. I'm not saying a nurse can finish work on a Friday in acute care and work in the community on Monday. This would take a fundamental rethink and investment behind continuous professional development for existing nurses. It needs a business model that will invest in the workforce.'
West London-based clinical lead for community IV services Linda Nazarko called for community caseloads to be considered in the same vein as hospital ratios, adding that there is a need for more community nurses 'with greater skill levels than ever before'.
The UK has the longest average length of hospital stay in Europe, according to the RCN and government announcements over the past month have placed the blame for overstretched A&E departments on primary care.
Care services minister Norman Lamb suggested the pressures on hospitals had been caused by a loss of public confidence in healthcare provided out-of-hours and called on GPs to take back responsibility for these services.