District nursing workforce planning: a review of the methods

Br J Community Nurs. 2008 Nov;13(11):525-30. doi: 10.12968/bjcn.2008.13.11.31525.


District nursing services in Northern Ireland face increasing demands and challenges which may be responded to by effective and efficient workforce planning and development. The aim of this paper is to critically analyse district nursing workforce planning and development methods, in an attempt to find a suitable method for Northern Ireland. A systematic analysis of the literature reveals four methods: professional judgement; population-based health needs; caseload analysis and dependency-acuity. Each method has strengths and weaknesses. Professional judgement offers a 'belt and braces' approach but lacks sensitivity to fluctuating patient numbers. Population-based health needs methods develop staffing algorithms that reflect deprivation and geographical spread, but are poorly understood by district nurses. Caseload analysis promotes equitable workloads but poorly performing district nursing localities may continue if benchmarking processes only consider local data. Dependency-acuity methods provide a means of equalizing and prioritizing workload but are prone to district nurses overstating factors in patient dependency or understating carers' capability. In summary a mixed method approach is advocated to evaluate and adjust the size and mix of district nursing teams using empirically determined patient dependency and activity-based variables based on the population's health needs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Planning
  • Consensus
  • Health Care Reform
  • Health Planning
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Needs Assessment / organization & administration*
  • Northern Ireland
  • Nurse Administrators / organization & administration
  • Nursing Administration Research
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / organization & administration*
  • Planning Techniques
  • Professional Competence
  • Public Health Nursing*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Workforce
  • Workload* / statistics & numerical data