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District nurse qualifications rise by nearly a quarter

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More district nurses are in training More district nurses are in training than at any time previously

The annual figure of district nurses qualifying in 2020 rose from 554 to 675, equating to an overall increase of 22% from 2018/19, the Annual District Nurse Education Report from the QNI has found.

According to the report, 43 universities in the United Kingdom are approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to offer the District Nurse Specialist Practitioner Qualification. Of the 38 universities who responded to the survey, 36 are running a programme. One of these is a new two-year apprenticeship and a further three universities have new programmes under development for 2021 and 2022.

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‘This was an exceptional year for the 2019/20 student intake and those continuing their two-year programmes, with all courses being interrupted and impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, these are extraordinary figures: when the students whose programmes have been delayed complete their qualifications, the largest increase in district nurses since the annual QNI audit commenced in 2013 will be recorded,’ said Crystal Oldman, the QNI’s Chief Executive.

‘A total of 819 new DN SPQ students commenced the programme in 2020/21 and an additional 127 part time students progressed into year two. It is not possible to demonstrate through the data whether these figures reflect the actual demand for the programme, or whether the figures are limited by funding and the opportunities to release existing employees to undertake the programme, and the QNI plans to undertake further work.’

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Additionally, 554 District Nurses qualified with SPQs in 2020, compared to 555 in 2019. However, 121 students from 2019/20 still had outstanding modules, assessments or exams to complete at the time of the audit, largely due to delays in assessment and restrictions in practice due to the pandemic. If they all successfully complete the programme, this will increase the annual figure of District Nurses qualifying in 2020 from 554 to 675, equating to an overall increase of 22% on 2018/19 figures.

‘The audit has revealed that community service providers continue to request the DN SPQ programme and, in England, they are navigating an unclear future where Apprenticeship and HEE funded places will need to be carefully balanced to continue to meet the needs of the communities served. There remains uncertainty about future funding and apprehension about the apprenticeship model being a viable alternative to current funding arrangements,’ added Dr Oldman.

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