A government-commissioned review is likely to press for all new nurses and healthcare assistants to be screened for their values and ability to be compassionate, Nursing Times has been told.
An expert panel is reviewing the NHS Constitution and is expected to report to the Department of Health in coming weeks.
The DH will then consult on changes to the document, which the NHS is required to follow. The work is expected to form part of the response to the public inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust scandal, which is due to report to the health secretary next month.
The chair of the panel, high profile GP Professor Steve Field, told Nursing Times universities should interview all healthcare staff before giving them places, and use the values in the constitution as part of interviews. He said the review had discovered that at present several nursing schools in England did not interview.
He said: “Universities should be interviewing all healthcare professionals, not just offering them courses based on their A-Level grades. I despair of nursing schools and medical schools which don’t interview.
“[Without interviews] they can’t even role-play being caring and compassionate. If you can’t do that what hope have you got? The constitution should be part of the interviewing exercise.”
Professor Field said the constitution should also strengthen the rights and conditions of nurses and other staff. It should help ensure they are properly valued and regularly appraised.
He said: “What doesn’t come across clearly enough [in the current NHS Constitution] is that healthy, motivated, inspired staff make for far better compassionate care.
“We need a new principle for the NHS which values staff. Some feel stuck and don’t feel they have control over their lives and jobs.”
Professor Field also said healthcare employers should use the constitution’s values in interviews for all staff. In particular he said more attention should be paid to healthcare assistants and other unqualified staff. The role of HCAs may receive particular criticism from the Mid Staffordshire inquiry, and there have been calls for statutory regulation of the roles.
Professor Field said: “They [healthcare assistants] are integral to patient care but feel often left out because they are not professional nurses or doctors.”
Royal College of Nursing policy director Howard Catton, who is also on the expert review group, said: “There is a strong theme [from the review] that happy staff gives happy patients. If you get it right for staff you get it right for patients.
“If you get it right for staff you get it right for patients. Staff should feel values, respected, be treated with dignity and involved in decision making.”