East of England community nurse deficit 'scandalous'

A nurse with a patient (stock image) Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption NHS England has said the training and education of nurses was under review

The loss of more than 900 community nurses in five years in the east of England is "scandalous", the Royal College of Nursing has said.

A BBC investigation found 903 full-time nurses have gone since 2010, more than twice the national average rate.

The fall in staffing levels has led to some community nurses visiting 25 patients during a shift.

In 2010, there were 3,757 community nurses in post but by September 2014, that fell to 2,854, the figures show.

The Department of Health said it was down to local trusts to allocate staff.

Margaret Berry, director of nursing for NHS England (East), said: "All community provider trusts and clinical commissioning groups have recently been asked to ensure that they regularly review their district nurse training, to ensure that it is meeting all the necessary requirements.

"The training and education of nurses is being reviewed nationally, with a new programme currently in development."

Image caption Karen Webb, east region director for the Royal College of Nursing, said district nurses were needed to ensure patients got the right level of care after leaving hospital

The figures indicate the biggest drop has been among the specialist district nurses, who deal with more complex cases and prescribe medication.

Since 2010, the numbers have plummeted by 66%, from 751 to 255.

Karen Webb, east region director for the Royal College of Nursing, said: "We've been horrified to see the very low numbers of qualified district nurses in operation in the East.

"It's scandalous and there's no way patients can be properly discharged from hospital without there being a proper qualified district nursing service there to support them."

Sophie Hodgkinson, from Norfolk, resigned as a district nurse last month to set up her own cafe.

She said: "You don't have the time to give to patients and it makes it very hard to deliver the good quality holistic quality of care that we all trained to do."

Community nurses support patients after they are discharged from hospital and care for them in their own homes at the end of their lives.

District nurse Nicky Dewhurst, who works for Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust, said she had been a nurse for 23 years and still enjoyed her job, but now had to visit up to 25 patients a day.

"The caseloads are definitely bigger. We have much more complex cases to nurse in the community," she said.

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