District Nurses Face Extinction

The Royal College Of Nursing Believes District Nurses Are Being Endangered By New Policies


The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that the role of district nurses is being diminished in the modern NHS.

District nurses are senior healthcare staff that visit patients at home or in the community and have repeatedly been highlighted as a key part of the NHS's care infrastructure by the Department of Health.

But according to the RCN the past decade has seen a 47 per cent reduction in the number of people in these types of roles.

Successive governments and NHS administrations have failed to hire more people into the district nurse position, with around 35 per cent over 50 years old and coming up to their retirement age.

Additionally, the RCN believes that these nurses are being burdened with excessive paperwork, with only 37 per cent of their time being spent directly delivering care to people in the community, much lower than should be the case.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: "People are living longer, but not necessarily healthier lives. This trend will grow over the coming decades and presents a very specific nursing challenge.

"The district nurse role is the foundation of a system which should be able to manage conditions and keep sick and frail people at home. Remove those foundations and the whole edifice could come crashing down."

As part of an effort to highlight the issues facing district nurses, the RCN is publishing a number of reports that show why these staff are so important and what the government can do to improve community care.

This is not the first time the RCN has made the headlines this month. On June 5th, the organisation published survey results showing that 95 per cent of members want to oppose the government's decision to not raise pay above the rate of inflation.

The government argues that nurses are well paid, adding that there are more people in this job role than before the 2010 general election, despite government cuts.

Expert Opinion
District nurses play a vital role in visiting patients at their homes thereby easing pressure on busy hospital wards.

“A reduction in numbers of these nurses is concerning and could leave many people without easy access to basic care, meaning they have to visit their GP or Accident and Emergency department more often.

“We hope that the Government will take action on these alarming RCN figures to ensure existing district nurses are given the support they need to concentrate on providing good care rather than filling in paper work, as well as looking to increase the numbers of people in this role.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner