Former health secretary John Reid pledged to recruit 3,000 community matrons by March 2007.
But DoH figures show that by December 2006, just 1,470 were in post. A spokeswoman said last week that the target had been dropped.
This followed a call for ‘greater flexibility’ from PCTs and SHAs, and a belief that it was sometimes appropriate ‘to hire a social worker as a case manager’, the spokeswoman said.
But community matrons blamed PCT cost-cutting for a failure to attract nurses into community matron posts, and said the DoH had settled for an inferior service.
Vivian Jellis, a former nurse consultant who recently became a community matron in Cambridgeshire, said: ‘Community matrons are best placed to deal with patients with multiple long-term conditions.’ Other case managers should deal with patients with single conditions, or support community matrons, she added.
She pointed out that community matrons could prescribe as well as carry out physical checks. Non-clinical case managers would have to refer patients to other NHS staff.
Ms Jellis added: ‘Some areas are paying community matrons Band 8 pay, but others are paying them Band 7, the same as case managers.’ As a result, many nurses had no incentive to undergo additional training to become a community matron.
Zara Williamson, a former community matron now practising as a first contact practitioner in Kent, said: ‘Case managers from other disciplines will rely on others to do some of the work community matrons would do. Maybe there just weren’t enough nurses to fill the posts.’
Comment below and tell us what you think