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RCN: drop in district nurses piles pressure on overstretched hospitals

Published: 23 May 2013

The Royal College of Nursing has expressed concern that patients are facing longer hospital stays due to under-resourced community services.

RCN Chief Executive Dr Peter Carter said the number of district nurses in the UK has fallen by an astonishing 42 per cent over the last decade. “This means that district nurses simply won’t be able to keep on giving the increasingly complex care required to meet the rise in demand,” he stressed.

“Sadly, if community services are not adequately resourced, many older people may face being admitted or readmitted to hospital as an emergency.”

The warning comes as the RCN publishes an analysis of international efforts to shift care from acute, hospital-based services to the community, which identifies a number of factors of concern for the UK.

The report found that although many countries are making the transition to provide more care close to home, few are investing as much in the community as is needed to meet rising demands. Where these barriers are overcome, and where investment is made in nurse-led services, considerable success has been achieved.

Comparative European data shows the UK has the longest average length of hospital stay, indicative of the gap in provision identified by the RCN.

“Care closer to home is not only what patients want, it is what UK health services need to do to avoid costly, lengthy and unnecessary hospital stays,” Dr Carter added.

Read the report Moving Care to the Community: An International Perspective on the RCN policy webpages.

Download the RCN’s position statement on district nursing on the publications webpages.