Nearly 40% of services for people with inflammatory bowel disease are failing to meet basic standards for the number of nurses, reveals the latest assessment of provision.
An audit of IBD services by the Royal College of Physicians found the percentage providing nursing care increased to 86% in 2014 up from just 56% in 2006.
However, the audit found 37% of services were failing to meet a minimum requirement of 1.5 full-time equivalent IBD nurses per 250,000 population set out in quality standards drawn up by experts in the field.
“It is encouraging to see that more patients are receiving vital support from IBD nurses”
Care and close monitoring from nurses has been shown to reduce hospital admissions among sufferers of conditions such as Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.
However, lack of nursing staff in some areas meant services often had to be suspended if nurses were off sick on leave or attending training, the audit found.
Meanwhile, 14% of IBD services did not provide any nursing care whatsoever.
The audit found that just 12% of services were able to offer access to psychological support for people with IBD.
It also revealed that just four in 10 services carried out basic nutritional risk assessments, despite the high incidence of malnutrition among IBD sufferers.
David Barker, chief executive of Crohn’s and Colitis UK and chair of the IBD Standards Group, recognised the “fantastic work and clear commitment” of nurses and other health professionals delivering services “often in difficult circumstances”.
“However, the audit illustrated that despite some improvements people are still not getting the vital services they need,” he added.
He said he hoped a new National Institute for Health and Care Excellence quality standard would prompt managers and commissioners to make further changes.
IBD nurse and audit group member Diane Hall added: “It is encouraging to see that more patients are receiving vital support from IBD nurses, but disappointing that it is not at the necessary level to ensure the service is robust and reliable.
“As care is delivered closer to home, with a focus on increased support for self-management, it will become even more important to ensure IBD nurses are recruited, trained and supported so this is effective and patient-centred,” she added.