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Community and District Nurses: Recruitment and Retention

Volume 748: debated on Tuesday 23 April 2024

8. What steps she is taking to support the recruitment and retention of community and district nurses. (902434)

As the hon. Member may know, in September 2023, we met our commitment to deliver 50,000 more nurses working in the NHS compared with September 2019. As of January 2024, there are over 68,800 full-time equivalent community nurses working in NHS trusts and other core organisations across England, which is over 2,000 more than a year ago. However, we want to go further, which is why the NHS long-term workforce plan sets an ambition to increase training places for district nurses by 150%, to nearly 1,800. It also commits to improving retention in the NHS.

In Scotland, the vacancy rate for registered nursing posts in the community is 8.5%, and for registered district nurses it is 6.6%—in England, the situation is actually worse in most parts. However, these posts are fundamental, not just to care in communities and to our communities themselves, but to addressing bed blocking. It is obviously for the Scottish Government to address terms and conditions of employment, but their overall funding package is dictated by the block grant and Barnett consequentials. Is it not time that the Department stood up for the NHS? When there is money for weapons abroad, why can we not provide care at home? We were told during the referendum that we would be better together and that the NHS would be protected. Instead, it is being undermined.

We hear from Opposition Members who love nothing more than to crow and criticise as their health system declines around them, despite record funding from the UK Government. Scotland has, sadly, some of the worst health outcomes in the western world. Earlier this year, when the UK Government stepped in to offer support, the SNP Health Minister rejected the offer. I reiterate that if the Scottish Government need help to reduce their waiting lists, we stand ready to provide such support.