Community nursing has seen one of the highest decreases in staffing numbers according to a new report by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), released today.
The Running the Red Light report, carried out as part of the RCN's Frontline First campaign, has found that of all the nursing disciplines, community nursing has suffered one of the greatest losses in staffing, losing 1,744 nurses between 2010 and 2012.
The proportion of nurses working in the community services has changed very little from 14.3 per cent of the total nursing workforce in 2002, to 15.1 per cent in 2012. Losses have been found particularly in district nursing, which has been declining year on year for the last decade with 1,312 full time posts lost since 2010, which relates to a 17 per cent decrease.
In addition to the loss of posts, the community nursing workforce also has a higher proportion of workers who may be retiring in the next decade. In the community workforce, 38 per cent of nurses were found to be aged 50 or over, compared to 23.6 per cent of the acute, elderly and general nursing workforce. Around 59 per cent of the community nursing workforce are aged 45 and over.
The report highlights that the lack of recruitment and uptake of pre-registration nursing education has meant that fewer students are entering into the community nursing sector. The RCN recommends that all nursing students should have the opportunity to undertake placements in the community, in order to ensure the future workforce has the necessary skills and experience.
Howard Catton, the head of policy at the RCN, said: ‘The numbers of nursing have increased over the past few years, but it is still below the national average. While there have been a lot of losses in the community nursing workforce some of them will be down to nurses transferring to private providers and it is difficult to obtain these figures, but we are working on getting this.
‘The end of the report lays out a range of recommendations that could help to increase the numbers of nurses.'
The RCN sent requests under the Freedom of Information Act to all acute, mental health and community NHS trusts in England to record the number of vacant nursing places in trusts after the government stopped collecting this data in 2011.
From the 61 organisations that replied, there was an average of six per cent of vacancies, although in some trusts the vacancy rate was as high as 16 per cent.
The report says that there are nearly 20,000 unfilled posts in England and there is predicted to be a shortage of registered nurses across all forms of nursing of 47,000 by 2016 if numbers continue to decline the way they are.
The report can be found here: http://frontlinefirst.rcn.org.uk/