Posted Wednesday 19 December 2012
The days of the district nurse could be numbered unless the lack of investment in community nursing is reversed, according to a leading healthcare academic and expert in the care of older people.
Professor Fiona Ross, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences, run jointly by Kingston University and St George's, University of London, warned the repeated reductions in funding for the training of district nurses during the past 20 years have seriously weakened the service.
She was speaking after being made a fellow of the Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI), the body which supports community nurses. Professor Ross was one of five leading healthcare professionals to receive the Queen's Nursing Institute Fellowship at its autumn awards ceremony.
The institute campaigns for good quality nursing to be available for people in their homes. Professor Ross was recognised for her contribution to, and influence on, the delivery of primary health care and community nursing.
"Community nurses play a vital role in many people's lives," Professor Ross said. "Most people would rather be cared for at home if they are ill - older people, in particular, fear going into hospital." What was often the best, most appropriate and, arguably, cheapest care could be provided to patients in their homes, Professor Ross contended. Failure to invest in the life blood of community nursing care by training more district nurses was decimating the service, she added.
Fellowship of the Queen's Nursing Institute was introduced in 2000. The aim was to create a bank of experts who could provide the organisation with professional advice and intelligence from the field on practice, research, policy and health service issues.
As well as working as a district nurse for more than a decade, Professor Ross has conducted research into a range of long term age-related conditions, the prevention of falls in older people and how best to involve older people in decisions about their care. "I owe a debt to the Queen's Nursing Institute," she said. "My entry into the academic world was because of the generous funding they provided for education of community nursing. My first teaching job was at the then Chelsea College as a Queen's Nursing Institute funded community nursing lecturer."
Crystal Oldman, the Institute's chief executive, said the fellows - all well known leaders in their sphere of expertise - helped it extend its reach as it worked to improve patient care in the community. "I am delighted to welcome Fiona Ross as a fellow," she said. "We look forward to working with her and benefiting from her expertise in community nursing."