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Our disappearing NHS community nurses – the huge fall in staff caring for our most vulnerable

This artcile was taken from:  https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/disappearing-nhs-community-nurses-huge-14299639

By David Ottewell

Exclusive figures have revealed a steep drop in the number of community nurses

The number of NHS community health nurses has been cut by more than 600 in the North-east since the Conservatives came to power.

There were 3,011 full-time equivalent community nursing roles in the region in 2010 – but only 2,393 in 2017.

The Government responded to the figures by admitting an “urgent” need to boost numbers.Community health nurses provide a vital link between hospitals and GPs, and social services.

They give care, support and advice to housebound patients, as well as supporting carers.

While The Gazette was been able to obtain regional figures, changes in the way health services are organised makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly which local areas have been left with less coverage.

Community health nurses used to be employed chiefly by Primary Care Trusts – but those were phased out to be replaced by Clinical Commissioning Groups.

These days most NHS community health nurses are employed by care trusts, hospital trusts, or CCGs.

The number of community care nurses across England has also fallen at a significant rate.

In 2010 there were there were the equivalent of 41,160 full-time community nurses – but that fell by 13.9% to just 35,432 in 2017.

Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “These figures are a stark warning about the state of community nursing across England.

“More patients should be treated at home or locally and yet community nurse numbers are dwindling.

“Their role in caring for some of the most vulnerable in society cannot be underestimated.

“Crude cost-cutting and constant re-tendering of contracts has led to a reduction in specialist community nurses.

“Excessive workloads and poor pay makes it difficult to maintain and attract new staff, too.

“Patients will continue to lose out unless the government gives the NHS and community services the funding for expert community nurses.”

Dr Richard Vautrey, GP committee chair for the British Medical Association, said community nurses provide valuable healthcare services working with practices, supporting GPs and in people’s homes.

He added: “Any reduction in their numbers is a big concern, not only for its potential knock-on effect for practices already struggling with unmanageable workloads, but particularly for those patients who depend on their support to help manage their conditions at home and avoid visiting hospitals.

“As more people are managed in the community, investment must ensure a more resilient workforce in and around the practice.”

Health and social care minister Caroline Dinenage said: “To meet the unprecedented demographic challenges and the complex needs of delivering care closer to and within people’s home, there is an urgent requirement to increase numbers, capability and image to transform community services.

“As a first step, Health Education England with NHS England and partners will be embarking on a comprehensive review of the current range of community-based nursing qualifications.”