The National Assembly’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee is calling for more investment from the Government to support community nurses across Wales.
Community nurses deliver care in patients’ homes. They can support individuals and their families to manage their health, avoid unnecessary hospital admissions, enable early discharge, and help maintain independence. These services are becoming an increasingly important part of the NHS workforce.
The changing nature of healthcare and a move to provide more care outside of hospital means that the role of community nurses has become increasingly demanding. The Committee has raised concerns that there is not an accurate picture of the community nursing service across Wales.
The ‘invisible service’
The report follows an inquiry by the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee where Assembly Members heard evidence from frontline community nurses on the day-to-day challenges they face. The Committee were alarmed to hear community nurses describe themselves as the ‘invisible service’.
AMs heard that despite the recognised contribution community nursing teams are making to the delivery of healthcare, little is known about this ‘invisible’ service. There is no accurate picture – at national level – of the number and skill mix of nursing teams, nor of the numbers of patients receiving care in their own homes. This is likely to have an impact on the effectiveness of workforce planning. There is also a lack of information about children’s nurses working in the community, district nursing is currently an adult-focused service.
One of the biggest issues raised by nurses working in the community is their inability to access the most appropriate technology to enable them to do their job effectively. Half of the community nurses who responded to the Committee said they had no access to a mobile device. They also reported that many employer-provided mobile phones had no software access to office calendar or e-mails.
The Committee believes that it is unacceptable that many nurses working in the community are reliant on paper-based systems and out-dated technology.
The Committee has provided ten recommendations for the Welsh Government to recognise the crucial work that community nurses do and to strengthen the service. The report focuses on:
- Understanding staffing levels and the number of community nurses currently working across the country
- The Welsh Government’s progress on developing a community nurse action plan for palliative care
- Providing training opportunities for more nurses to become community nurses
- Efforts to promote community nursing as an attractive career
- Investment in technology such as mobile devices
Dai Lloyd AM, chair of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee said:
“We are proud of the work that community nurses do across the country, they are unsung heroes in the health service. We are concerned to hear from nurses about low staff morale and in some cases nurses are leaving the service as a result of stress and increased workload.
“The Welsh Government must provide community nurses with the support and resources they need to do their job.
“If we are to support individuals and their families to manage their health at home, avoid unnecessary hospital admissions, enable early discharges and help maintain people’s independence then we need a clear picture of what the community nursing situation is in Wales at the moment and investment in the service.
“For the service to improve and thrive we need to make sure that staffing levels are right, that nurses are provided with the mobile technology they need to do their jobs effectively and that community nursing is seen as an attractive career.
“Community nursing is a key part of the future of the NHS in Wales and we are calling on the Welsh Government to listen to what frontline nurses are telling us and work to implement the recommendations laid out in our report.”