The government must invest “energy and real money” into the district nursing workforce, one of the authors of a new initiative to improve palliative care in primary care settings has warned.
The Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of General Practitioners last week jointly launched a seven-point “charter for end of life care” detailing what patients should be able to expect from practice nurses and GPs. It is to be hung in every GP practice in England.
It includes commitments to provide a written record of terminally ill patients’ wishes to all those involved in their care, to protect their dignity and sense of control, and to support their loved ones.
It also commits practice teams to listen to patients’ wishes about end-of-life care, help them identify choices, ensure their remaining days are as comfortable as possible, and ensure they receive all the specialist care and “emotional and spiritual support” they need.
But, speaking at the launch of the charter, RCN primary care advisor Lynn Young warned: “General practice cannot actually do this on its own. General practice has to be working very, very closely and in harmony with their local community nurses.
“The principles and values in this charter can only happen in reality if community nursing teams have the resources needed to do the job, and those relationships between community nurses and general practice are what we would want them to be.”
She called for the Department of Health to put “some energy and real money” into “rapidly expanding the district nursing workforce”, with a campaign similar to its current drive to recruit 4,000 extra health visitors.
She added: “The worry that many of us have is that community nursing today is not in a robust state.”
Ms Young said “it really, really grieves me” that while the massive investment in the NHS over the last decade had seen “huge rises” in hospital nurses “the number of district nurses has actually significantly dropped over the last decade”.