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District nurse roles 'vulnerable to cuts'

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District nurses are vulnerable to cuts by organisations 'desperate to save money' because they are 'individually more expensive than less experienced staff', the RCN has warned.

The college's November update on its Frontline First campaign, published last week, found the percentage of nurses working in the community in the UK increased by 0.62 per cent between 2001 and 2012; however the number of full time equivalent district nurses providing care in the home dropped by 3,590, during the period.

Up to 61,000 NHS posts across the NHS in England are now at risk or have been axed since the coalition government came to power, the report states, up from 55,000 six months ago.

The news comes as Staffordshire clinical commissioning groups launched a review into local district nursing provision over fears seriously ill people are missing out on visits after leaving hospital at nights and weekends.

Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust will pay independent experts from the private sector to lead the investigation.

It admitted with more patients needing complex support in the community, district nurses numbers, culture, management and training were all being investigated.

Siobhan Heafield, director of nursing and quality at the trust, said: 'This review will assess the greater acuity of patients we care for and will examine the capacity and skill mix of our community nursing teams. There is no specific role description for district nursing and we hope this review will help define the role more clearly and identify what other skills and professions are needed to support our community nursing service.'

Queen's Nursing Institute practice development manager Anne Pearson said: ' The picture is becoming more complicated as many community nurses are employed outside the NHS and not counted in NHS workforce figures.

'However, commissioners can see the demand for community nursing services going up and hospitals are under pressure to discharge patients quickly. You can increase the capacity of community nursing services through better organisation, but only if there are enough trained community nurses in the first place.'

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