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Community nursing 'overburdened', warns RCN

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The majority of community nurses say they are facing cutbacks and spending less time with patients, according to survey results revealed yesterday.

Just 6% of community nurses said they always had time to meet the needs of their patients and a “startling” 89% reported their caseloads had risen in the last year. Nearly two thirds of respondents said registered nurse levels had decreased over the past year.

The Royal College of Nursing surveyed 2,681 of its members working in community settings during April. The results are included in a report – The community nursing workforce in England (attached, right) – which was published yesterday at RCN congress.

The college said the rise in caseloads had “inevitably” resulted in a reduction in the time nurses spent with patients. Sixty per cent of respondents said they were spending less time with patients than they did a year ago.

Three quarters also said work pressures on their team had increased as a result of social care cuts. Only 15% agreed that the patients in their care receive adequate support from social care services.

The findings chime with a Nursing Times survey earlier this year, in which the majority of nurses said cuts to social care services were leading to more older patients experiencing delayed discharge.

The RCN said the findings “paint a picture of a workforce under pressure” and proved that government plans to move more services from acute settings into the community were a “façade”.

It said that, while this apparent shift in care focus had been used to justify hospital posts being lost, the survey demonstrated community services were “also overburdened, underinvested and at risk from cutbacks”.

The survey results build on official workforce statistics showing the community and district nursing workforce fell sharply last year (news, page 5, 27 March).

The number of whole time equivalent district nurses in the NHS in England on 30 September 2011 was 6,937, a drop of 756 from the previous year. The number of community matrons also fell by 83 to 1,469. 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • DN cannot continue to be expected to take work form the accute sector with out appropiate funding and safe staffing levels following the work.
    DN are highly skill persons which cover and are competent in vast area's in multiple medical conditions and precedures. Definitely value for money!!!!

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  • The theory practice gap gets ever wider. The RCN appeer to have identified staffing issues both now and for the future in theory. Care delivery is reported at becoming a task orientated service minus the care which we have heard about via media reports. I am one of these community staff feeling all the negative effects. Perhaps the Health secretary should read these statistics as he appears to be on a different page from health workers and the future looks bleak to me

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