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PCTs fall short on community matrons

Scepticism over the evidence base for community matrons has seen PCTs fail to hit Government recruitment targets.

Only 1,600 community matrons have been recruited since 2004, leaving GPs and district nurses struggling to fill the gap.

In 2004, the Government declared it would recruit 3,000 community matrons in a move aimed to cutting emergency admissions among the elderly. The target later dropped to 2,500 to be met in March 2007, but PCTs have still fallen well short, report by the Healthcare Commission has revealed.

The failure follows long-running doubts about the need for matrons, with studies finding no evidence to suggest matrons reduced admissions.

Dr Vari Drennan, director of the Primary Care Nurse Research Unit at University College, London said the huge shortfall was predictable.

‘This isn't going to come as a surprise to anyone, given the difficulties with the financial targets and deficits in the local health economy. There was never any ring-fenced money for this,' she said.

Dr Helena McKeown a GPC member and a GP in Salisbury said: ‘There is not a highly skilled nursing force sitting around, waiting to become community matrons.

‘We've seen the raping of our best district nurses to become community matrons, so our district nursing teams have become even thinner spread.'

Dr Tom Frewin, a GP in Bristol and LMC member in Avon, added that the question of whether matrons reduce hospital admissions was a ‘moot point' if a GP couldn't access one. He has been asking his PCT for one for over a year, but has only this week had a positive response.

He said. ‘We bring it up from time and time and have always been told "go away"' he said.

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