Staffordshire NHS plans review of district nursing following gaps in service
A REVIEW is to be carried out into district nursing over fears seriously ill people are missing out on visits after leaving hospital at nights and weekends.
Staffordshire's NHS will pay independent experts from the private sector to lead the investigation.
It comes after family doctors at the helm of new health funding bodies sanctioned unannounced inspections of three district nurses' bases in Stoke-on-Trent and the Staffordshire Moorlands after being told about gaps in services.
They also heard of how a seriously ill pensioner was told to find his own way in the dark to see a district nurse at Stoke Health Centre the day after being discharged from life-saving treatment at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UHNS).
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Now the health trust running the service has admitted that with more patients needing complex support in the community, district nurses numbers, culture, management and training were all being looked at.
And that could mean some of them having to be moved around the county to areas of greatest need.
With the UHNS discharging patients earlier than ever to get maximum use from its beds, district nurses are key to ensuring they are kept safe and continue treatment after arriving home.
Stuart Poynor, chief executive of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust, which runs the service, said: "We want to get the community nurses spending more time treating patients.
"Demand is going up and we are talking to our commissioners on how we can match that by increasing capacity.
"The review we have all agreed too will look at capacity, culture and how teams are managed and trained.
"We may even have to move care from one area to another, and we acknowledge how that causes stress for staff.
"We would liked to say we were two years further down this road than we find ourselves. We have a new model of care we have all signed up to, and need to implement that at pace."
A report by officials to the partnership's monthly board meeting said the review had now been put out to tender, and mapping of the quality of each district nursing team and how it was meeting demand was already underway.
That data will be reported back to the partnership by the end of the month.
NHS campaigner Ian Syme, co-ordinator of North Staffordshire Healthwatch, told directors at the meeting in Newcastle: "District nurses seem to be very thinly-spread.
"These people are key players in bringing care out of hospitals and into the community, yet there seem to be problems in accessing them, particularly at nights and weekends when UHNS is discharging more and more patients."
He also claimed there was a shortage of nurses specialist in using Hickman Lines on patients treated at home – tubes used to pass drugs into the body.
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