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by Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland
31 March 2023
Associate Feature: Role of community nursing in public health must be recognised by Ministers

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Associate Feature: Role of community nursing in public health must be recognised by Ministers

Improving public health is essential if Scotland is to successfully face up to the challenges of increasing population demands on our health and care services and continued financial pressures on budgets. Action to address health inequalities, prevent ill health and ensure the resources and investment are in place for early intervention is essential for both the physical and mental health of Scotland’s population. 

Community nurses are ideally suited to respond to public health challenges as they understand the communities they work in and have the knowledge and expertise to promote health as part of their clinical practice. Yet initiatives to promote public health, to support people to manage their health and wellbeing and to address health inequalities, will continue to be severely constrained by a lack of available workforce. 

Community nursing teams were under resourced before COVID-19 struck and the pandemic has significantly increased pressure on these services. Over 1,700 NHS community nursing posts are vacant – this is 13% of community nursing posts in Scotland. Our members tell us that patient care is being compromised daily because of staffing levels, they are having to make difficult decisions about which patients to prioritise and they are finishing their shifts feeling like they have not been able to provide the quality of care that they want to.  

The system is in crisis and these severe workforce shortages must be addressed if services are to have the capacity to focus on prevention and early intervention. Improving Scotland’s public health requires health and care services having the right staff, with the right skills in the right place and there needs to be wider recognition of the role community nursing services play in this. Tackling the workforce crisis must be a priority for Ministers, or our health and care services will continue to struggle with limited progress on improving Scotland’s public health record or tackling persistent inequalities.  


This article is sponsored by RCN Scotland.

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