A DoH report published last week said provision of community services directly by PCTs ‘will not be expected to be the norm' in the future. It orders trusts to come up with alternatives by 31 March.
Handing over community services to hospital trusts is among the preferred options set out by the DoH sets out.
Other options outlined include integration with a mental health provider, a community-based provider such as GP practices or consortia, or becoming a social enterprise.
A handful could also become community foundation trusts.
Rosemary Cook, director of the QNI, called for community nurses to take an interest in the decision process and make their voices heard: ‘PCTs are consulting on the staff side, and when these are going on nurses need to put voices in.
‘It is likely community services will be provided by somebody new, and if community nurses end up feeling unconsulted and unhappy about the change, morale gets low, service provision suffers and ultimately patients will suffer.'
Ms Cook warned that community nurses may have concerns about whether community services can survive in acute hospitals, or if GP consortia and other providers understand their role and value.
Ms Cook urged community nurses to be ‘positive, helpful and constructive' in whichever situation they end up in.
‘None of these options are the end of the world. They are a new opportunity, and nurses will need to be actively engaged with the new providers, whatever the outcome.'