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Community nurse workforce needs greater capacity to cope with demand

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There is a 'pressing need' to improve the capacity of the district and practice nursing workforce, according to a new report by the Department of Health and NHS England.

The Transforming Primary Care report outlines the ways in which primary care will be changed in order to meet the increasing needs of an ageing population. Health Education England (HEE) and NHS England will be working with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI) to improve recruitment in the primary care nursing workforce, particularly in areas where it has been challenging, such as rural or deprived areas.

They will also support the development of the community, district and practice nursing workforce, through the Community Nursing Strategy Programme. The programme is due to be released in the next few months, according to Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the QNI.

HEE will also continue to increase the number of placements in primary care for undergraduate nursing students, in order to encourage student nurses down that career pathway.

A spokesperson from HEE said: 'HEE's 2013-2015 mandate required that at least 50 per cent of student nurses undertake community placements by March 2015. Wherever possible, there should be practice learning opportunities in hospital and community settings in each part of the programme.

'Whilst commissioning for practice nurses is undertaken by NHS England through the commissioning of GP services, HEE will nevertheless be considering this issue further as part of its work with NHS England, Public Health England, and the DH.'

As well as tackling workforce problems for nurses in primary care, the report also highlights how those nurses will be involved in the care of over 800,000 vulnerable patients. Practices will enrol at least two per cent of adults with complex healthcare needs into the Practice Care Programme. While GPs will oversee their care, district and practice nurses will become care coordinators who will provide advice and coordinate care between services.

In line with this, NHS England has pledged to train 10,000 healthcare professionals for primary care by 2020.

Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: 'Without urgent investment in the nursing workforce in primary and community settings, the public are being short changed.

'Community nursing teams are already working under a great deal of pressure with too few resources and too few staff. The promise of 10,000 more frontline staff will be welcomed by these nurses, but the fact that there is little detail about where they will come from and how they will be resourced is extremely worrying.'

The report also announced the extension of the £50m Challenge Fund which will fund more than 1100 practices to offer improved services to 7.5 million people. It was expected to help just 500,000 people but has been expanded due to a high level of interest.

The fund will help practices to modernise services such as introducing Skype, email and telephone consultations, and to extend opening hours to seven days a week.

Prime minister David Cameron, announced the fund in October 2013.

Read the full report at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads

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