Understanding the value of community nursing

We’re delighted to have been able to contribute to an important report exploring people’s experiences and perceptions of community nursing across the East of England. Community Nurse Fellows in the East of England commissioned local Healthwatch to engage with patients, families and carers about their experiences of accessing community nursing, the value of the service, and how it could be improved.

There are more than 86,000 nurses across England. Community nurses provide invaluable care to people in their own homes, care homes, or close to where they live, in clinics, GP practices across every village, town and city in the country. They also provide outreach services to those who may not have a secure home. Community nurses support patients with a wide range of mental and physical health needs, often operating alone or in small teams. They deliver and coordinate the complexity of 24/7 care and supervise the management of multiple long-term conditions to ensure people can maximise their independence, avoid complications associated with immobility, disability and existing illness, and where possible, minimise the risk of going into hospital or a care home.

How community nursing is seen and valued is recognised by the NHS as a key area for improvement, and is a listed priority within the National Community Nursing Plan. Evidence shows that the work of community nurses is often misunderstood, undervalued and overlooked by others – whether that be the public or the NHS. Community nurses are often referred to as the ‘invisible workforce’ as they tend to work in settings that are not necessarily seen by others. This evidence was further highlighted in research by The Queen’s National Institute (QNI) which found a lack of awareness regarding the range and the complexity of care community nurses provide, as well as the economic value community nursing brings to the NHS and to local communities.

Community Nurse Fellows commissioned local Healthwatch across the East of England, including Healthwatch Essex, to engage with patients, carers and families about their views towards community nursing, and their experiences of accessing this service. The engagement focused on hearing the positive impact community nursing has had for patients, carers and families, understanding the challenges patients, carers and families have experienced when accessing community nursing and exploring what community nurses are doing well, and what could be improved.

Healthwatch Essex was involved in carrying out online and face-to-face focus groups. Participants included parents, carers, family members and friends who have either personally used community nursing, or supported a loved one who has accessed this service. Each focus group was transcribed, and thematic analysis was used to code the similarities and comparisons in experiences of community nursing.

The key findings incorporated very positive experiences as well as areas for improvement. Themes included communication with community nurses and their administration teams, accessible information, overcoming language barriers, cultural competency, continuity of care, quality of care, out of hours support, training and pressures on community nursing.

Read the full report to understand the findings in more detail.