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All new nurses could face checks on compassion and values

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.”

Readers' comments (49)

  • And I suppose they are suggesting a way to quantify and test for these qualities then? Thought not.

    And you want to get it right for the staff and have happy, productive workers? Then how about paying us a decent liveable wage that reflects our qualifications, skill and experience, sort out some decent working conditions that won't leave us burned out and in tears after every shift, give us more clinical staff on the floor so we can improve care for our patients and stop attacks on our pensions, our pay and our status and reputation from all corners.

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  • if this works on nurses, who are being used as the test cases, it will be extended to all politicians!

    Hopefully those doing the testing uphold all the values they are seeking in others and carry out their tests with compassion. Leading by example is after all a sign of excellent leadership!

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  • I'd love to know how they plan to do this!

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  • Another dose of salts. I have been a NHS worker for 51 years. 46 years as a qualified staff.
    The NHS condones the idea of calling its staff Human resources.
    It changes the Minister of Health as much as a District Nurse changes a Patients bandages.
    It constantly renews itself without permission from anyone in particular least of all its users.
    It is now condoning not paying staff who are off work sick, for the first three days. (remember this is the NHS. punishing its Human resources for actually being ill.
    It is led by Corporate, (failed) administrators who know absolutely nothing
    about the roles of the staff that they mismanage.
    The NHS as a so called exemplar employer, has no real compassion itself, so it does not display any of those qualities that it expects from its workforce.
    If the NHS were a year, it would start on the first of January, and would stop, and start again, on the 20th of the same month, with nothing to show, apart from a new, but useless, computer programme.
    The complaints about new staff are fair, and they should be aware that they are supposed to become compassionate, however this has to be taught by People and organisations that are compassionate in the first place.
    Most of the Professors and their teaching staff have proved themselves to be poor practitioners in the first place. And many Trained staff (including myself) need to constantly challenge our practice.
    Compassion, can only be learned from others who have these skills, and can only exist in a compassionate environment.

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  • Tiger Girl

    '... being caring and compassionate. If you can’t do that what hope have you got?'

    Although this is a quality hard to test candidate's for, and hard to apply if staff are rushed off their feet most of the time, I do feel certain that the organisations representing patients will approve of this move.

    'They didn't seem to really care !' is a complaint frequently made by upset patients and upset bereaved relatives - and it also upsets most staff.

    'The DH will then consult on changes to the document, which the NHS is required to follow.'

    That statement isn't as clear-cut as its wording implies !

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  • When acute care is designed to rush patients through the system as quickly and cheaply as possible nurses do not lack empathy and compassion they often don't get the chance to show it.

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  • I agree that all potential nursing students should be interviewed, it's pretty appalling that they are not and this is one reason so many get through who really are not suited to the job.

    There is no doubt that HCAs should be regulated, how can anyone vote against this, they are working with the public.

    As for re-jigging the Constitution to make it more supportive for nurses - yes, great idea, nurses have no rights as far as many people are concerned.

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  • michael stone

    The NHS should work for patients, and for the staff.

    'Anonymous | 11-Sep-2012 11:16 am

    When acute care is designed to rush patients through the system as quickly and cheaply as possible nurses do not lack empathy and compassion they often don't get the chance to show it.'

    If as a patient/relative your own experience of the care is that it seemed 'uncaring', and you cannot see that this is because of lack of staff, you won't know the staff are being prevented from caring. But acute care - as in emergency care - is different from, for example, care of the elderly, isn't it ? If there are too few staff, then let the patients know this - then the patients might push the message !

    Anonymous | 11-Sep-2012 11:22 am

    'As for re-jigging the Constitution to make it more supportive for nurses - yes, great idea, nurses have no rights as far as many people are concerned.'

    Everyone should be treated decently - patients, nurses, relatives, cleaners, doctors and even managers !

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  • People are not treated decently, hence the need for a Constitution.

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  • everybody, in good physical and mental health, should have values and be capable of showing compassion, not just nurses.

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  • @ Glyn Goodchild How very Daily Mail of you.

    "It is led by Corporate, (failed) administrators who know absolutely nothing
    about the roles of the staff that they mismanage!"

    I'll assume you don't mean me and MANY other former nurses and clinicians who through injury and illness work in these roles now. I am the only person in my team with any clinical experience and I use it well to ensure that the interests of current clinical staff are represented and considered when strategy is discussed.

    Yes there are some crap people away from the clinical areas in the same way as there are some crap ones in them. Admin staff are a cheap and easy target for this kind of abuse but they are under no illusion that they are the "sharp end" of the NHS.

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  • this check could be added to the criteria for the periodic re-registration with the NMC.

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  • Hello Glyn.

    Well done. valiant service. If you have been compassionate and caring, then I salute you and high respect to you.

    I tend to think that compassion (nurses, police, social workers, teachers etc) should be filter (in). Chose the bright and caring ones. not try to 'professionally' train in caring into those who might not naturally possess empathy and sympathy.
    Of course the other answer is to put all the un compassionate (well, o.k., less compassionate [by inclination/ temperament) ones onto operating theatres to join the gun-ho surgeons and their Def leppard CDs.

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  • what about all the old timers who have become bitter,who have have heard and seen it all before and who have tolerated years of being used and abused?

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  • glyn goodchild, My thoughts entirely, thanks for saving me the task of posting my comments.

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  • Anonymous | 11-Sep-2012 3:33 pm

    Quote.
    Admin staff are a cheap and easy target for this kind of abuse but they are under no illusion that they are the "sharp end" of the NHS.
    Unquote.

    I take your point, but do 'Admin staff' work understaffed shifts, take verbal and often physical abuse from patients and or their rels, multi-task, multi-discipline these tasks and are now expected to be tested to see if they have compassion.

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  • Agree with the comments re: staff needing to be working within an organisational culture that leads by example & treats it staff with humanity/provides sufficient staff & resources if staff are going to sustain providing compassionate care without descending into burnout.

    But.....the article is about selecting people to enter the professions. Like the panel chair, & Anon 11/9/12 11.22am I can't believe health care profession students are now chosen without interview/purely on academic results. How on earth can that give a university any idea whether the candidate has any ability to relate to real people??

    Re: Glyn's comment "Compassion, can only be learned from others who have these skills.." - I have to disagree. People can hone their compassion skills by learning from others & their own experience, but without some initial compassion towards other people, they may learn to 'act as if compassionate' but it will come across as false & without feeling. In the same way that communication which follows all the learnt tools/rules but is delivered without connecting with the other person fails to really communicate.

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  • potential student nurses should be interviewed by a panel which includes a senior nurse. when I did my RGN training I was interviewed by the senior nursing officer from the hospital I wanted to train at.

    students should also be continually assessed during their training for their attitude, team work and appearance.

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  • Anonymous | 12-Sep-2012 9:13 am

    absolutely, and we shouldn't even need to have to be writing this!

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  • Anonymous


    'I'll assume you don't mean me and MANY other former nurses and clinicians who through injury and illness work in these roles now. I am the only person in my team with any clinical experience and I use it well to ensure that the interests of current clinical staff are represented and considered when strategy is discussed.'

    Isn't 'I am the only person in my team with any clinical experience' a serious issue - even if it is not the one this piece was about ?

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