The Queen’s Nursing Institute has published the eighth annual Report on District Nurse Education in the United Kingdom, covering the academic year 2019-20.

The data informing the report was gathered using an online survey between November 2020 and February 2021.

Key points from the Report include:

  • 43 universities in the United Kingdom are approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to offer the District Nurse Specialist Practitioner Qualification. 38 universities responded to the survey and of these, 36 are running a programme. One of these is a new two-year apprenticeship programme and a further three universities have new programmes under development for 2021 and 2022.
  • 554 District Nurses qualified with SPQs in 2020, compared to 555 in 2019. However, 121 students from 2019/20 still had outstanding modules, assessments or exams to complete at the time of the audit, largely due to delays in assessment and restrictions in practice due to the pandemic. If they all successfully complete the programme, this will increase the annual figure of District Nurses qualifying in 2020 from 554 to 675, equating to an overall increase of 22% on 2018/19 figures.
  • 761 new students commenced the District Nurse Specialist Practitioner Qualification (DN SPQ) Programme in 2019/20. This is an increase of 68 students (10%) on the 693 students who started the programme in 2018/19.
  • The number of universities offering the V300 Independent Prescribing course as part of the programme has increased from 15 to 16 in 2019/20.

“This was an exceptional year for the 2019/20 student intake and those continuing their two-year programmes, with all courses being interrupted and impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. In this context, these are extraordinary figures: when the students whose programmes have been delayed complete their qualifications, the largest increase in District Nurses since the annual QNI audit commenced in 2013 will be recorded. 

819 new DN SPQ students commenced the programme in 2020/21 and an additional 127 part time students progressed into year two. It is not possible to demonstrate through the data whether these figures reflect the actual demand for the programme, or whether the figures are limited by funding and the opportunities to release existing employees to undertake the programme, and the QNI plans to undertake further work in this area.

The audit has revealed that community service providers continue to request the DN SPQ programme and, in England, they are navigating an unclear future where Apprenticeship and HEE funded places will need to be carefully balanced to continue to meet the needs of the communities served. As identified in 2018/19, there remains uncertainty about future funding and apprehension about the apprenticeship model being a viable alternative to current funding arrangements. 

Against this uncertainty, new DN SPQ programmes are under development, again demonstrating the need for the qualification which has been articulated by the community service providers. It is clear that many DN SPQ programmes reflect an advanced level of practice and many have been mapped to demonstrate this level. This is excellent news, given that it has been proposed that the NMC review of all SPQ post registration standards will form a bridge to the possible future regulation of advanced practice by the NMC, should the NMC proceed to regulate it.

Dr Crystal Oldman CBE, QNI Chief Executive

Click below to download the report.

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