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All district nurses ‘should have specialist qualification’


Nurses at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference have backed a motion highlighting the importance of specialist qualifications for community nurses.

RCN congress passed a resolution calling on RCN council to lobby for all district nurse caseload holders to have the relevant specialist practitioner qualification.

Julie Bliss, from RCN District Nurse Forum, presented the item, which comes in the wake of growing concerns over a number of years about the future of the district nurse role and its protected title.

The forum said it believes the District Nurse SPQ was “essential” for nurses that led complex teams in the community.

It warned that there had been a 35% reduction in district nurse numbers since September 2010, despite a number of high profile reports and reviews highlighting the importance of the role and the threats facing it.

The forum added that two in three district nurses in Northern Ireland did not hold the specialist practitioner qualification.

Regarding the overall decline, the forum stated: “As a consequence the reduction of experienced leadership has become a serious concern.” 

It also noted, that while figures indicated that nurse numbers had gone up in England during recent years, this was mostly in the acute sector – in spite of the growing demand in community settings.

The forum said: “Each district nursing team continues to have day-to-day responsibility for the care of high input patients with debilitating long-term and palliative conditions.

“The forum reports that the impact of this balancing of competing demands, accompanied by diminishing staff numbers, presents every district nurse team with daily challenges that compromise care and increase risk,” it said.

“Increasing pressures intensify the challenge of allocating and managing workload and the ability of teams to deliver high quality care,” it added.

“In such an environment it is essential that the district nurse managing the caseload is an assertive, inspirational leader equipped with skills to manage a role that is highly complex and requires skills in negotiating, coaching, teaching and effective team management,” said the forum.


That this meeting of Congress calls on RCN Council to lobby for all district nurse caseload holders to have the specialist practitioner qualification (SPQ)

 Dr Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, welcomed the resolution being carried.

“This is a major achievement in relation to patient safety and the QNI commends the RCN District Nurse Forum for pursuing this critical issue,” she said.

Dr Oldman noted that the QNI/QNIS voluntary Standards for District Nurse Education and Practice were published last year and could be viewed on the QNI website.

”These enhance the existing NMC standards – with a four country consensus view on the requirements of the district nurse team leader and the critical role they have in leading the district nursing service in every community of the UK,” she said.



Readers' comments (5)

  • michael stone

    I still can't reconcile, in my head, this 'goverment thrust' that 'we need to treat more people in the community, to avoid them being admitted to hospital', with ' a 35% reduction in district nurse numbers since September 2010'.

    I must be missing something - not unusual. Unless - and this is hard to believe - the 'goverment plan' is an incoherent mess ?

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  • 'District Nurses' do have a specialist qualification - DN. Perhaps it is meant, 'all community nurses ought to have a specialist qualification' - such as, DN, or a suitable community-based qualification for HCAs and other non-RN posts.

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  • This saddens me that this needs to be raised as a resolution as previous government cuts have influenced the community trusts decision making to think that is it ok to have non specialist practitioners leading teams within the community setting. As a long standing DN, previous chair of the RCN District Nurse Forum and now a Clinical Quality manager responsible for patient safety, I strongly believe that the qualification is essential. The move from acute to community care, the support required for all staff grades looking after patients with a much higher acuity than in the past, social and cultural changes, all emphasise the need for qualified specialist to lead a specialism that is unique. In addition I also believe, as I have raised nationally and with HIE's in the past, is the need for appropriate community educational modules for Bands 5 to assist with career progression and the delivery of safe evidence based care.

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  • I agree we need DNS to have a spq but what is sad that someone like myself a nurse for 30 yrs and in the community for 15 went through the spq and because I failed the dissertation am left with nothing. Does this mean I am not capable of being a team leader! I don't think so, I was unfortunate to be wrongly treated. What has happened to practical skills and life experience? Being academic doesn't necessarily equal care, and compassion and doesn't always make for a good leader either.

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  • Thanks for sharing this information. I completely agree with this article. Nurses must have specialized qualification for the betterment of the patient. They should be aware of all the rules and regulations whether it is medical uniform or their day to day responsibilities. You can get more details at over the web.

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