There has been a drop of almost half in the number of district nurses working for NHS England since 2010, according to a new BBC report on the state of district nursing.
The report found that there has been a fall of 46.4% in the number of full-time district nurses from the period May 2010 to July 2017, with this having a damaging affect on the ability of the health service to provide care in peoples’ homes.
Responding to the report, Dr Crystal Oldman, Chief Executive of The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI), said: ‘The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) welcomes the BBC’s report on community nursing. Nurses providing care in patients’ homes are an ‘invisible workforce’ and it is therefore encouraging that community nurses and the pressures they face have been recognised and reported by the BBC.
‘The QNI has for some time raised significant concerns about the declining numbers in the community nursing workforce. Statistics reported today depict a decline of 46.4% in the number of full-time equivalent District Nurses in England between 2010 and 2017. These figures are alarming, given the UK policy imperatives for more care to be delivered in people’s homes and communities.’
Previous reports on district nursing have also revealed this declining trend, albeit with less certain statistics. In 2016 a King’s Fund analysis found ‘evidence of a profound and growing gap between capacity and demand in district nursing services.
‘While demand for services has been increasing, available data on the workforce indicates that the number of nurses working in community health services has declined over recent years, and the number working in senior ‘district nurse’ posts has fallen dramatically over a sustained period.’
The report discovered that this was having a ‘deeply negative impact’ on staff wellbeing, with huge caseloads stretching staff to their limit: ‘we heard of staff being “broken”, “exhausted” and “on their knees”.’
A separate report by the QNI, District Nurse Education in the UK 2015-16, found that there had been no increase in the number of new entrants to the Special Practitioner – District Nurse programme between 2014/15 and 2015/16, putting additional pressure on the existing workforce and representing ‘a major challenge to current and future recruitment efforts'.
Crystal Oldman, commenting on the new figures from the BBC, criticised the government and called on them to do more: ‘Government policy has placed increasing emphasis on care being provided in the community and in patients’ homes yet this has not, to date, been followed with the required investment in workforce numbers, resources and skills development.
‘We call on the Government to take immediate action in developing a workforce plan for the District Nursing service, supporting the health of communities in every village, town and city of the UK. We also hope to see the Chancellor respond by providing community nursing services with a much needed injection of new resources in tomorrow’s Autumn Budget.’