Survey reveals 1,800-plus diabetes specialist nurses in England

By Editor
30th October 2019
Audits, Nursing

A call for just two diabetes nursing titles has been made after the results of the first-ever, England-wide Diabetes Specialist Nurse (DSN) Audit revealed there were 117 job titles.

The survey was launched by TREND-UK, an organisation that represents all diabetes nursing groups, because the number of diabetes specialist nurses (DSNs) was previously unknown. In total, the audit revealed that there were 1,872 nurses dedicated to diabetes care, with 1,831 at Band 5 or over (registered nurses).

The last time a survey focussed the diabetes specialist nursing workforce was carried out was in 2010 when 838 respondents to a voluntary Diabetes UK questionnaire gave 238 different job titles.

However, this new audit was based on sending requests under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, meaning NHS trusts were legally obliged to return the data. Questions about nursing roles were sent to all Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), hospital trusts and mental health trusts in England between February 21, 2019, and March 22, 2019.

DSNs play a pivotal role in the care of people with diabetes… however, there are currently too many titles leading to confusion. TREND-UK Co-Chair Debbie Hicks

The results were published on Wednesday, October 30, on day two of Diabetes Professional Care.

There were 117 job titles listed for nurses working in diabetes care, leading to TREND-UK to call for greater simplicity which would benefit people with diabetes as well as NHS employers in workforce planning, determining competency levels and study leave.

TREND-UK and Diabetes UK worked together on clarifying the role of a DSN and propose the following two titles to be adopted across NHS England, these are Diabetes Specialist Nurse at Band 6 and Senior Diabetes Specialist Nurse at Band 7. TREND-UK is also calling for all new DSNs to meet basic competencies measured as part of an appraisal, be prepared to undertake diploma-level modules and new, Band 7 DSNs to have Non-Medical Prescribing qualification as pre-requisite/on course, and be willing to undertake a Masters degree. This to ensure people with diabetes are receiving excellent diabetes care and support  from a highly trained and knowledgeable nurse. This proposal is also underpinned by an Integrated Career & Competency Framework developed by TREND-UK over ten years ago.

TREND-UK Co-Chair Debbie Hicks said: “DSNs play a pivotal role in the care of people with diabetes. They support individuals with complex diabetes problems as well as advising and educating other non-specialist healthcare professionals in the management of the condition. However, there are currently too many titles leading to confusion, how do people with diabetes know what level of care to expect when there are so many different job titles?

“TREND-UK was challenged to find out exactly how many DSNs there are working in diabetes care in England. We responded with the first-ever, England-wide DSN Audit, with the findings giving us the crucial intelligence needed for workforce planning as the NHS meets the challenge of diabetes, particularly the rise in the prevalence type 2 diabetes.”

Latest figures from Diabetes UK suggest there are more than 3,222,500 people with diabetes in England, with calculations showing there are 0.58 nurses for every 1,000 people with diabetes.

The audit enquired about four main job titles, including DSN (56.14 per cent), Diabetes Nurse (10.22 per cent), Diabetes Inpatient Specialist Nurse (10.87 per cent) and Diabetes Nurse Educator (1.36 per cent).

Data on pay bands was also retrieved, with the majority of nurses falling into Band 6 (41.47%) or Band 7 (48.57%). Preliminary analysis of the data shows wide variations in provision of DSNs in major cities and areas. This needs further investigation. The results also indicate that 48.6 per cent of the nurses were based in hospitals, while 36 per cent were community nurses and 15.4 per cent work over both settings.

This audit was initiated in response to a challenge posed at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Diabetes.

This TREND-UK DSN Audit has been funded by Napp Pharmaceuticals Limited and Novo Nordisk. Napp Pharmaceuticals Limited and Novo Nordisk have had no input in to the management of this project.

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