Worry over review of district nursing
Changes to Nelson Marlborough District Health Board's district nursing service have some Nelson residents worried, but director of nursing and midwifery Robyn Henderson says the public will notice little difference.
District nurses visit patients at home or in district nursing clinics to help patients stay out of hospital by managing their conditions in the community.
Ms Henderson said the board carried out an audit of the district nursing services in June and July. The audit looked at patient referrals, and whether "more appropriate" services could better meet the needs of some patients.
"This audit has been about ensuring that the service is operating effectively and meeting the service specifications - the proposal does not significantly change the service the public receive."
Following the audit, its findings and recommendations were submitted to a review group of hospital and community nurses which included an external district nurse leader.
Conclusions formed by this group became the basis of a consultation proposal which is now up for review and feedback from district nursing staff.
Ms Henderson said the DHB had to ensure its practices and systems for district nursing lined up with national and international best practice.
Nelson woman Rita Symns is a former registered nurse of 45 years, and a regular recipient of district nursing services. She said she was very concerned about the lack of public consultation around the audit as district nurses were vital to her and other residents' quality of life.
"Huge deals are being made behind closed doors," she said. "All DHB members need to be accountable and transparent."
New Zealand Nursing Organisation representative Carla Palmer said she had been working with district nurses on the service review, and service cuts were "absolutely not" on the table.
"We would recommend the best decision as being a review of how those services are delivered with a view to optimising the connection to primary health."
According to a 2011 report on district nursing released by the Ministry of Health, the Nelson Marlborough district is expected to see a 40.6 per cent increase in the population of people aged 75 years and over by 2020.
This represents one of the steepest increases nationwide, exceeded only by Counties Manukau, Northland, Waitemata and the West Coast.
The report said that the main function of a district nursing service was to enable people to remain in their home during health challenges that would otherwise require hospitalisation. It said that rising age of the population will place increasing pressure on the district nurse workforce, which would create a need to develop innovative ways to provide care in the home and local community.
It emphasised the role of district nurses in relieving population pressure on hospitals by facilitating at-home care for patients with complex needs.
The report was optimistic about district nurses' place within the healthcare system, saying New Zealand's district nursing workforce was well placed to respond to future challenges in the health services and develop further.
"District nursing services have the support mechanisms to meet the requirements of populations with high health needs. Their services are positioned to develop and fulfil population health needs for complex interventions in the community setting."
- © Fairfax NZ News