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District nurses: Crippling government cuts threaten foundation of community healthcare with extinction

One of the foundations of England’s community healthcare faces extinction with district nurses’ numbers slashed by almost half in crippling government cuts. 

The nurses, who enable patients to stay in their homes and communities, could disappear unless drastic action is taken, their professional body the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned yesterday.

A survey commissioned by the RCN as the union meets for their annual conference found that district and community nurse numbers have fallen by 47 per cent in the last decade.

A third of those remaining are over 50 and nearing retirement.

At current rates the system will collapse by 2025 and a vital tier of NHS care will have been removed by government inaction.

The survey said at least 10,000 more qualified district nurses are needed.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter 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. Remove those foundations and the whole edifice could come crashing down.

“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.

“By 2025, there will be many thousands of families with frail older relatives who may well have survived a number of illnesses — and when they look for help to manage at home, it simply won’t be there.”

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