The Queen’s Nursing Institute has published its seventh annual Report into District Nurse Education in the United Kingdom, covering the academic year 2018-19.

The report was launched at the charity’s annual conference on 22nd October 2020. It is based on the responses of programme leaders at 37 universities, submitted via an online survey during January-March 2020.

The report shows an increase of 5% in the number of new students enrolled on District Nurse Specialist Practitioner Qualification (DN SPQ) programmes compared to the previous year, continuing the sustained upward trajectory in the number of students choosing to undertake this qualification.

Key Points from the Survey:

  • There were 693 new students who commenced a District Nurse Specialist Practitioner Qualification (DN SPQ) Programme in 2018/19, an increase of 34 students (5%) on the 659 new students in 2017/18.
  • Of the 693 new students in 2018/19, 527 were full time and 166 were part time.
  • 518 DN SPQs qualified in 2019, compared to 500 in 2018. This represents an increase of 4% newly qualified DN SPQs.
  • There are 42 universities in the United Kingdom (UK) approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to offer the DN SPQ.
  • 37 universities responded to the survey; of these, one university is no longer running the programme.
  • The number of universities offering the V300 Independent Prescribing course as part of the programme has remained constant at 15 in 2018/19.
  • 85% of university respondents had mapped their programmes to the QNI/QNIS Voluntary Standards for District Nurse Education and Practice (QNI/QNIS 2015).
  • As found in 2017/18 almost all respondents have concerns about the loss of funding with the apprenticeship model being a possible alternative to current funding arrangements; however, over 50% of the respondents were involved in the application to form a ‘trail blazer’ group for the District Nurse apprenticeship standards which has now had formal approval.

It is extremely encouraging to see the increasing numbers of nurses who are undertaking the DN Specialist Practitioner Qualification, in all parts of the United Kingdom. The survey shows that the vast majority of provider organisations require team leaders to hold the qualification, which acts as a guarantor of safe and effective patient care, leadership and management, in a highly complex and autonomous clinical environment. As the demands on District Nursing teams continue to grow – including with new challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic – the need for proper preparation of District Nurse team leaders has never been keener. In addition, 738 nurses entered the District Nurse programme in 2019/20, demonstrating an almost threefold increase since the QNI annual audit began in 2013.

While the DN SPQ course is popular and relevant for nurses and their employers – and, crucially, supports them to give the high quality healthcare that people in their own homes require – the funding arrangements of courses, particularly in England, have led to concerns within universities. The funding of the DN SPQ is a complex and evolving negotiation between central government and local providers. In particular, we hope to see more clarity about the implementation of the Apprenticeship route in England in the coming months.

Dr Crystal Oldman CBE, the QNI’s Chief Executive  

On the opening day of the QNI’s Conference on Monday, the Chief Nursing Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland all stressed their commitment to continued investment in District Nurse education and workforce. In Wales and Northern Ireland, all community/neighbourhood nursing team leaders are required to hold the DN SPQ. In England, CNO Ruth May said she is “absolutely committed to investing in District Nursing in England” and cited the £18.5m funding through Health Education England that underpins this.



The report can be downloaded on the QNI’s website here: https://www.qni.org.uk/explore-qni/policy-campaigns/district-nurse-education-reports/

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