Cuts to district nursing hit social services

Vulnerable patients could ‘slip through the net’ if district nursing numbers continue to fall, nursing unions have claimed.

The warning comes in light of a Local Government Association survey of 95 councils, which revealed more than one in five had seen a reduction in district nursing capacity.

The Social Care Finance Survey showed that two thirds of councils are ‘seriously affected’ by NHS debts because costs are being ‘shunted’ to their social services.

Half had seen bed closures, 13 per cent said community hospitals had been closed and 21 per cent said there has been a reduction in district nursing capacity.

According to Karen Jennings, head of health at Unison, the study points to responsibility for some services being pushed on to local authorities that do not have the money to pay for them. ‘This highlights a serious situation because of the move toward providing more healthcare in the community,’ she said.

‘In order to do that you have to have district nurses to do that work. The budgets and responsibilities need to be sorted out. People are going to slip through the net and not receive the care they need because the PCT or council will not agree on who takes responsibility for the care they need. ’

Lynn Young, RCN primary care adviser said district nursing posts were being frozen and the situation was ‘dire’. ‘If you have a lack of district nursing, social care feels it. We’re joined at the hip,’ she said.

Meanwhile, a report by the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee has claimed that errors in the in the costing of the GP and consultants’ contracts, as well as Agenda for Change, were among a ‘number of factors’ behind the NHS deficit.

The report also said that the DoH did not have an overall picture of the impact of deficits on the NHS’s capacity to deliver services.

Dr Peter Carter, RCN general secretary, said it was time for the government to ‘come clean’.

‘Ministers need their advisers to tell them just how damaging the deficits crisis has become and acknowledge the government’s responsibility to work with frontline staff to find a solution,’ he said.

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