Promises made to prioritise NHS community services have ‘fallen flat', says report from NHS Providers.
The NHS made set out plans in the Five Year Forward View to bring care closer to patients’ homes to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions. However, the report says that services continue to be underfunded and short staffed.
‘They [community services] are in a unique position to act as integrators, working across boundaries and collaborating with other parts of the public sector to tackle health inequalities,’ said Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers.
‘These services need adequate funding, and action to address staff shortages. It is vital that national leaders address the barriers we have identified to ensure that community services are at the heart of the future health and care system.’
The report states that more than half of community trusts, 52%, have seen their funding fall, 42% have said they were cutting costs, 30% have cut staff, and 82% have said they were worried that community services will not deliver the ambitions of the Five Year Forward View.
Some organisations have spoken out since, demanding more be done to support community services so that these expectations can materialised.
‘For too long community services have been left out in the cold. Despite promises to help people stay well in their own homes, years of underfunding and staff shortages has left community care in a precarious state,’ said Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing.
‘District nurses support the most vulnerable people in our society yet constraints on funding and staff numbers, coupled with increased demand for their services, are dramatically affecting their ability to provide quality care. Cuts to training budgets have prevented nurses from joining the community nursing workforce, prompting further staff shortages.’
‘Investing in an expert district nursing workforce and community services must be a priority to ensure safe, effective, person-centred care.’
The report, titled NHS Community Services: Taking Centre Stage, also included examples of good practice and successful collaboration of services, pointing out that community services are well placed to strengthen and modernise the healthcare system.