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.