This year has seen a dramatic rise in the number of trainee district nurses set to join the workforce, after years of decline, according to latest figures.
The upturn in the number of students completing district nursing courses in England was hailed by the Queen’s Nursing Institute as “hugely encouraging”.
It is the second year the community nursing charity has commissioned research into district nurse education, following concerns that the number of newly-qualifieds was falling far short of those leaving the workforce.
The institute said 351 district nurses were due to qualify this summer in comparison to 254 in 2013 – an increase of 38% in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Other key findings this year are that there were 427 new entrants to the district nurse education programme in 2013-14 in the UK, of which 30% were registered on the part-time route over a two or three year period.
“This is definitely a move in the right direction”
In addition, there has been a 25% increase in the number of universities running Specialist Practice – District Nurse programmes in England in comparison to 2012-13, and a 31% increase in the number of programmes running with 11 or more students in each cohort compared to 2012-13.
In June, both the QNI and the Royal College of Nursing published hard-hitting reports warning of the problems faced by district nurses and which follow increasing concerns about the declining workforce over a number of years.
A survey of 1,035 community nurses by the QNI painted a “troubling” picture of teams lacking enough staff with the right skills and qualifications to deliver care needed by patients.
Meanwhile, the RCN said district nursing, as a specialist profession, faced extinction within a decade without urgent action.
QNI chief executive Crystal Oldman said last year’s figures has “served as a wake-up call” to commissioners and educators.
“At that point, many courses had so few students that their viability could be called into question and 21% of courses did not run at all,” she said. “The new figures are therefore hugely encouraging.
“This year we have seen an increase in the number of institutions offering the District Nursing SPQ, and a large overall rise in the number of enrolled students,” she added. “However, this is only part of the picture and suitable employment opportunities must also exist.
Dr Michael Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance, said: “This is definitely a move in the right direction.
“But we need to ensure that the increased numbers of district nurses have the specialist knowledge necessary to play a major role in the holistic care of our frail elderly patients and those with long term conditions,” he said.
“While it is about numbers, it’s also about expertise,” added Dr Dixon.
- District Nursing Education Report 2013-14
- District Nursing Education Report 2012-13