COMMUNITY: The future of district nurses
Somerset patients should be able to see a community nurse in the evening or at weekends if it is more convenient for them.
That is one of the conclusions of a new report by Healthwatch Somerset into the county’s district nursing service (DNS), which provides nursing services in care homes and private homes.
Healthwatch Somerset, which campaigns for better health services on behalf of ordinary patients, surveyed hundreds of people and recorded their concerns about the quality of service being provided.
The Somerset NHS Foundation Trust said it would take the group’s recommendations on board as it sought to transform the DNS in the coming months.
The DNS works in partnership with patients, their family and carers, other NHS providers and the voluntary sector to ensure people’s needs are fully met.
Healthwatch Somerset surveyed a total of 175 people from across the county between February 22 and April 11 – of which 81 per cent were aged 65 and over – asking them a variety of questions about their experience of the service.
While nearly 94 per cent of respondents rated the service as ‘very good’, a number of suggestions were put forward for where improvements may be needed.
Here are the recommendations Healthwatch Somerset has made to improve the service in light of this feedback:
- Extend service hours: nearly 80 per cent of respondents said they would be willing to have a routine visit from a nurse after 5pm on weekdays, and nearly 92 per cent said they would be happy with weekend visits. Healthwatch Somerset argues this could relieve pressure on the service at its current peak times (Monday mornings and Friday afternoons), as well as providing additional employment opportunities
- Show caution when moving to digital care: two-thirds (67 per cent) of respondents said they would feel excluded if appointments became largely digital, either due to having no internet connection or not feeling confident using digital devices. Healthwatch Somerset has therefore urged caution when rolling out virtual appointments, even with the considerations needing to be made for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic
- Offer appointment time slots: more than a dozen respondents said that they would appreciate either being offered specific appointments or have more notice if visits had to be cancelled. Healthwatch Somerset said introducing regular time slots would be “especially useful for patients with memory loss or mental confusion”
- Offer continuity of care: numerous people surveyed said that the quality of care would be improved by ensuring the same nurse(s) would always see the same patients. Healthwatch Somerset agreed, arguing it would particularly benefit “long term service users and those with cognitive impairment”
The Somerset NHS Foundation Trust said it would take the report’s recommendations on board as part of its plans to transform the DNS.
Gillian Cook, the neighbourhood service head at Creech Medical Centre in Taunton, said: “We are about to commence a transformation process for the DNS in Somerset and our patients’ voice is at the centre of this work.
“This report will be invaluable as we move through this transformation process and it will positively influence our future service.”
Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter
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