District nurse shortage 'damaging reputation of nursing'
A decline in district nursing means vulnerable patients are being treated at home by inexperienced staff who have had just an hour of training, a conference heard on Friday.
This was the worrying picture painted by Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter when he challenged the UK’s four chief nursing officers on the state of district nursing.
He said the number of district nurses across the UK had fallen dramatically from 12,000 in 2003 to 7,500.
More community nursing tasks were being performed by healthcare assistants, while the increased use of private firms to deliver home care meant some patients were being seen by completely inexperienced staff, he said.
“Providers are employing young people who are expected to go out after having an hour of training”
Dr Carter raised the issue during a question and answer session with the CNOs at the Florence Nightingale Foundation’s annual conference in London last week.
He said not only was the situation damaging the quality of patient care but also “damaging the reputation of nursing”.
“So many contracts are being out-sourced and providers are employing young people who after having an hour of training are expected to go out to people’s homes to nurse patients,” he said.
“A recent example that was given to me was that of an 18-year-old young woman who hadn’t had any training but was given a full caseload and her first home visit was to an elderly man with an internal catheter and she didn’t even know what this was,” he added.
CNO for England Jane Cumming said she was concerned about the reduction in qualified district nurses, despite the fact there had been an increase in community nursing staff as a whole.
She said there was a need for “better workforce planning” to ensure appropriate, quality care in the community in the future and England’s Community Nursing Programme was working on that.
“You have to have the right mix of staff and a variety of skills in community teams”
Earlier, CNO for Wales Jean White told the session efforts to ensure community nursing met patient needs was not just about district nurses but the whole community team.
“You have to have the right mix of staff and a variety of skills in community teams,” she said.
While district nursing in Wales had decreased, she said the different skill sets in community nursing had increased.