District nursing needs to be at the heart of new workforce plan implementation

 Theresa Fyffe 1 May 2018

District nurses are the face of the NHS in our communities. More investment and resources are vital to making sure they can fulfill their pivotal role, says Theresa Fyffe.

Thepublication of part 3 of the National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan this week is a step in the right direction, but not the end.

RCN Scotland has been championing the need for this plan to incorporate nursing and not focus solely on GPs, ensuring that the implications of the new GP contract on the wider primary care workforce are recognised. District nursing teams, advanced nurse practitioners and practice nurses are crucial to safe and effective primary care services and the diversity and complex nature of community nursing teams’ caseloads cannot be underestimated. These teams need the staff and resources to be able to care for the young, old and most vulnerable in our communities.

The plan, published yesterday, reflects a new approach to developing multi-professional primary care teams. However, there is more to be done and we need to ensure our community nurses feel valued and supported in their role. 

District Nurses are pivotal in the coordination and involvement of other professional teams, agencies and services to ensure care is delivered at the right time, by the right person with the right skills. Investment in district nursing teams reduces unnecessary hospital stays, helping to get people home and reducing the pressures across the health service. This has been overlooked for too long. 

With a district nursing vacancy rate of over 4% and the financial pressures on Integration Authorities, this has be addressed robustly, realistically and rapidly. The quality and safety of care is compromised when district nurses are asked to do more with less and as lost colleagues are not replaced.

The Scottish Government’s commitment to investing £3 million over three years for the education and training of general practice nurses and a further £3.9 million over three years into the training an education needs of district nurses is a positive step. More important though, is the commitment to work with partners including the Royal College of Nursing to understand the requirements and investment necessary to grow the District Nursing workforce. 

District nurses are the face of the NHS in our communities and we will be pushing to ensure that Scottish Government makes a firm commitment to the funding and resources need to deliver a sustainable district nursing workforce by the September 2018 deadline.

Find out more about community nursing in Scotland.

Read the new primary care workforce plan.

Theresa Fyffe

Theresa Fyffe

RCN Scotland Director


Theresa Fyffe has been RCN Scotland Director since 2007 and is a former Deputy Chief Nurse for Scotland, experienced clinician and nurse manager.

Page last updated - 05/09/2018