Community nurses need to be “business savvy” to fight for the funding their services need, according to a senior government nurse who is helping develop a new “vision” for district nursing.
A consultation on the draft model of Community Nursing for Improved Health and Wellbeing was launched last week at a conference hosted by the Queen’s Nursing Institute to celebrate its 125th anniversary.
Wendy Nicholson, the Department of Health’s professional officer for nursing, told delegates that district nurses needed to set out clearly the contribution they made to the health of patients and their families.
“District nurses do need to be really business savvy,” she said. “They need to have that business acumen to be able to influence both care and commissioning decisions. Without that, quite often services are not resourced as well as they should be.”-
The number of district nurses working in the NHS has fallen by more than a third over the last decade, according to the QNI, despite the drive to deliver more care in community settings.
Latest official figures suggest that from 2010-11 the number of NHS district nurses fell by almost 10% to 6,937. However, the figures do not include community nurses transferred to social enterprises or the private sector, but still providing community NHS services.
The DH’s new “vision” sets out what the district nursing service currently does, highlighting where it fits with national policy objectives such as delivering more care in people’s homes, helping people remain independent for longer and providing more support for carers.
DH director of nursing Viv Bennett admitted there would be no “national targets and levers”, as there had been with the health visitor strategy. It set primary care trust’s targets for increasing the number of health visitors working in their area.
Instead, the district nursing vision would be carried through “with the passion of profession” and would make a difference by empowering district nurses in commissioning conversations and the fight for resources, Professor Bennett told delegates at the conference.
“We live in hard times and we all know austerity measures are biting. We know it’s a tough world… [we need] to be able to very clearly say ‘this is what a district nurse is in early 21st century’,” she said.
The DH is seeking views from the profession over the next few months on the draft model before it publishes the final version of the district nursing strategy next February.
The work forms part of a broader strategy for nursing that is being developed by Professor Bennett and NHS Commissioning Board chief nursing officer Jane Cummings.