The results of a recent research study conducted by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have revealed that district nursing services could be extinct by 2025 unless urgent action is taken. The RCN has estimated that an additional 10,000 district nurses are needed across the country to “plug the gap”.
Approximately 2,500 district and community nurses took part in the study and the RCN has reported that a third of the workforce are over the age of 50 and nearing retirement. The RCN has called on health officials to ensure that all student nurses have a mandatory placement in the community.
The study also reveals that most community staff are "pushed to breaking point”. A quarter of the district nurses interviewed said they had seen more than 12 patients on their last shift, meaning that the time actually spent with the patient was stretched. A surprising eight out of 10 had worked additional hours on their last shift. The RCN states that: “It looks as though the NHS is trying to run these services on goodwill alone and staff should not be spending their working lives at breaking point”.
In response to the study, the Department of Health has set up a working group to look specifically at what initiatives can be taken to increase the number of community nurses. The Department of Health has also assured that it is “committed to training 10,000 more frontline community staff by 2020”.
Naomi Holland, an associate in the Penningtons Manches' clinical negligence team, comments: “As people are living longer, the demand for home care will continue to grow over the coming decades. Due to the lack of beds and other restraints on resources within the secondary care setting, the NHS is keen for care to be delivered at home but a system needs to be in place within the community to manage health conditions and keep sick and frail people at home safely. District and community nurses play a vital role in this.
“A number of the negligence claims that we deal with relate to lack of appropriate support and care in the community and/or the care of the elderly or long term sick in hospital due to lack of community facilities. We already see far too many failings due to lack of resources.”