Plans are in the pipeline for new foundation training for community nurses, as part of efforts to raise awareness of the role and boost recruitment and retention, Nursing Times has learnt.
The Queen’s Nursing Institute has confirmed it is in discussion with Health Education England and NHS England on developing standards for foundation programmes aimed at training newly qualified nurses entering district nursing teams or those moving into the community from other nursing roles.
“We are working with them to work out what this would look like and when we can do it”
The initiative would build on work already underway to develop national standards for general practice nursing foundation training, explained QNI chief executive Crystal Oldman.
“NHS England and HEE have been talking to us about creating standards for foundation programmes that would also go across to nurses new to district nursing,” she told Nursing Times.
“This is really new, so we are working with them to work out what this would look like and when we can do it,” said Dr Oldman.
Developing bespoke foundation training for community nurses is one way to encourage more nurses into the field, according to Professor Ian Cumming, chief executive of Health Education England.
He told MPs on the Commons’ health and social care committee that providing a “proper structured programme” for those interested in community nursing could help “boost interest, boost applications and therefore expand the workforce”.
The recently-published long-term plan for the NHS in England has promised more investment in primary and community services to support the delivery of more services outside hospitals.
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However, concerns have been raised about whether there will be enough nurses to make this vision a reality.
The work the QNI is undertaking on general practice nursing – such as establishing a network of nurses who lead programmes for general practice nurses in universities – ties in with NHS England’s 10-point action plan to boost the capacity of the general practice nursing workforce.
Dr Oldman said one issue that had emerged when looking at existing foundation programmes for general practice nursing was the huge variation in what was on offer at the moment.
“There are some foundation programmes already and – unbelievably – these can be anything from four weeks to two years part-time, so there is huge variation in what nurses new to general practice have access to locally,” she said.
“The whole purpose of doing this piece of work with NHS England and HEE is to ensure there is a standard that is agreed across the country – whether you are a practice nurse in London, Staffordshire or Cornwall, you have the same introduction foundation programme,” she noted.
“This is a true recognition of the importance of this area, raising the profile of nurses who work in the community”
Dr Oldman said moves to also develop foundation training for community nurses were a recognition of the key role of district nursing teams now and into the future.
“This is a true recognition of the importance of this area, raising the profile of nurses who work in the community and perhaps dispelling some of the myths of working in the community and primary care,” she said.
Dr Oldman highlighted that foundation schemes would be aimed at staff nurses already working in district nursing teams.
Programmes would probably run over six months, with nurses released from practice one day per week to attend training.
It was likely participants would be expected to demonstrate various skills in practice and complete a portfolio, she added.
The QNI leader stressed that foundation training was in no way meant to replace the specialist district nursing qualification.
“This is not replacing it,” she said. “This is absolutely giving recognition to those coming to work in a district nursing team – either newly qualified or someone who may have worked in a hospital for a year who is now coming out to work in the community.
“There are skills that would be really helpful for you to know in a foundation programme that might take you a couple of years to build up in practice,” she said. “It just gives you a really specific programme probably about over six months.”
“We can see some commonality where you could all come together on a foundation programme”
In addition, Dr Oldman said there was the potential to create a similar programme for care home nursing in the future and there was scope for some joint training.
However, she stressed the need to ensure foundation training prepared nurses for the specific demands of distinct nursing roles.
“A nurse working in general practice is very different from a nurse working in a district nursing team, and it is different again in a care home,” she said.
She added: “Of course, there will be some principles that are the same such as wound care – some knowledge, competencies and skills around wound care will be as relevant for a care home nurse as a nurse working in a district nursing team and again, for the more mobile patient, it may be useful for a general practice nurse.
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“We can see some commonality where you could all come together on a foundation programme,” she said. “There are some core areas but also some that are role-specific.”
She also said the idea of some joint learning supported the vision of new “primary care networks” set out in the long-term plan, where groups of GP practices would work alongside aligned multi-disciplinary teams including community nurses.
“This is about us all working together. So having programmes where you learn about district nursing and general practice nursing alongside your practice nursing colleagues or you might work in a district nursing team and be doing some work with your general practice nurse colleagues is very helpful,” she said.