The number of district nurses in specialist practice programmes across the UK has risen in 2014/15 but that growth is slower than in previous years a report by the Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI) has found.
The third annual report carried out by the charity found that there were 479 district nurse specialist practitioners due to qualify in summer 2015, compared with 382 in 2014.
Dr Crystal Oldman, the chief executive of the QNI however, raised concerns around how the numbers of new students year on year appears to be tailing off. There was a 32.6% rise in 2014/15 compared to a 14.3% growth predicted for 2015/16. Additionally Health Education England's proposals for 2016/17 has seen a reduction in the number of commissions for specialist district nurse programme by 0.8% since 2015/16.The number of universities providing this course has remained stable since teh previous year.
'The QNI finds this move alarming, particularly given the recent policy focus across the UK on delivering more care in the community. The QNI is concerned that the newly qualified district nurses will not be of sufficient number to meet the increased demand or to replace those due to retire. Additionally there remains a critical need to develop a robust workforce plan for district nurses,' said Dr Oldman.
There were 566 new entrants into the specialist practitioner district nursing programme in 2014/15 and there is a predicted 647 new students for the academic year 2015/16.
In 2014 the QNI published a report commissioned by NHS England on good practice in caseload allocation and workforce planning in the district nursing service, and the NICE review of safe staffing for adult nursing care in the community. The report also discovered that the voluntary standards for district nursing created by the QNI and the QNI in Scotland are being incorporated into specialist practitioner programmes.