The creation of additional district nursing jobs across the UK should be considered an essential element of maintaining and improving the quality of NHS care, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
In the view of the organisation, there has been a 47 per cent fall in the number of qualified district nursing staff in England over the past decade, a trend that could cause problems for the provision of care in future if it continues.
As such, the royal college has urged the government to fulfil its previously-stated commitment to increase the community workforce by 10,000 in order to ensure the needs of patients across the country are being met.
The need for more district nursing staff is particularly pronounced at the moment, due to the fact that the UK's population is ageing, meaning more people than ever are affected by complex long-term conditions and may require care at home.
Previously, the Department of Health has identified a need to move the focus of NHS care away from hospitals and into the community, but the RCN states that this will not happen without an appropriate recruitment and investment strategy.
Hiring more staff will also help existing district nurses to spend more of their time dealing with patients face-to-face and providing direct care, rather than busying themselves with paperwork and other administrative tasks.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: "The district nurse role is the foundation of a system which should be able to manage conditions and keep sick and frail people at home."
He added: "The NHS and the people who run it have long paid lip service to the ideal of moving care closer to home. But many people up and down the country are still in need of expert care from district nurses."
This comes after the Nursing Times highlighted data from the Queen's Nursing Institute earlier this month suggesting that around 60 per cent of community nurses do not believe they have the right amount of appropriately skilled staff at the moment.
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