Fewer District Nurses is Leading Pressure on Hospitals


The Royal College of Nursing has called it “lamentable” that needless suffering is being caused by a huge 40% drop in the number of district nurses. NHS England has said that this sharp decrease has been countered by the rises in other community staff, with the overall number of community nurses increasing by more than 8%.

Medical Negligence NHS

But patient quality of care may be decreasing as there are fewer staff and more patients.

Is the Crucial Role of District Nurses Being Lost?

The news is overrun by stories documenting the failure of the NHS to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its patients.

Along with a 50% rise in hospital attendances, repeated warnings have been given to hospital emergency departments that the pressure on the services is unsustainable. With pressure mounting and waiting times increasing, we need the district nurse now more than ever.

District nurses play a crucial role in the health care team and for more than 150 years' they have been supporting people in their homes. They also play a vital role in keeping admissions and re-admissions into hospitals to a minimum.

Unfortunately, the number of district nurses is falling with only 7,500 being recorded in England, most of them close to retirement age. This figure is just over half those reported a decade ago by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Save Our District Nurses

In an interview with the BBC, district nurses aired their frustrations, damning the long working hours, laborious form filing and having to spend less time with patients.

Care at home is essential to the ever increasing needs of patients, especially with the massive growth in the population and the increase in more complex conditions.

District nurses can help with providing quality care at home, which is necessary to avoid costly, lengthy and avoidable hospital stays. It is clear that what is needed is more adequately staffed care in local communities and in homes.

Generally, the RCN has been warning that shortages of nurses represent a “real threat to patients” for many years.

In 2002 the RCN warned that a chronic shortage of nurses could undermine the government's attempts to modernise the NHS. In 2003, the then general secretary to the RCN, Dr Malone, warned that many hospitals still face difficulties in filling vacancies, and in her opinion only the "aggressive" recruitment of nurses from overseas had prevented a breakdown in the health service. She went on to say that the NHS was still heavily reliant on agency nurses, with spending trebling in England over the last 7 years.

In 2007, a YouGov poll, commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found that the public were concerned that nursing shortages would have a negative effect on patients. The survey also found that 72% of the public believe that nurses do not have the time and resources to do their jobs properly.

You can find out about what you should expect from professionally qualified care staff by looking at their ‘codes of practice’.

For example the nursing code of practice can be found at:


and the General Medical Councils code of practice can be found at:


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