Great nursing is about putting patient care first and everything else second, says David Cameron
What happened at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust shocked and appalled us all. But I know - and the whole country knows - that in most cases, nurses represent the very best of our NHS. Whether it’s easing a pain, offering that vital word of comfort or treating a vulnerable patient in their home, there are hundreds of thousands of nurses in our hospitals and communities whose tireless work and compassionate care deserves our unending gratitude and admiration.
I know you feel betrayed by what happened in Mid Staffordshire. You are determined to put things right - and the biggest lesson we can learn is to help you, by putting power back in your hands, not taking it away from you.
Somewhere in the last decade one of this country’s greatest professions has been undermined. From the stifling bureaucracy that means it can take longer to fill in forms about patients than to treat them, to the pursuit of targets without sufficient regard for the quality of care - too often when nurses have wanted to do the right thing, the system has failed to support them.
“We will put your voice at the heart of the way the NHS goes about its work”
The whole approach to caring needs to be reset. And it needs to start with one simple fact: great nursing is about putting patient care first and everything else second.
That means we need proper nurse leadership throughout our wards and communities, delivering the Compassion in Practice vision by focusing on the highest possible standards of care. It means we need to give nurses more time to care by scrapping bureaucracy and properly training healthcare assistants to support them. And it means we need the voice of nurses ringing through the boardrooms of hospitals and informing the priorities of regulators and the Department of Health itself.
In our response to the Francis report later this month, we will address these issues.
First, we need to invest in nurse leadership so there is a figure of authority to ensure the highest possible standards of care - including zero tolerance of healthcare-associated infections. Leadership is a full-time job. Facing an increasing flow of patients with more acute conditions, it is becoming ever more difficult to expect a nurse who is overseeing the care provided by others, to be simultaneously treating patients themselves. That is why Robert Francis QC recommended ward sisters should operate in a supervisory capacity.
Second, we need to give nurses the time to care. There must be no place for those who put box-ticking over care, respect and dignity. And a £100m technology fund will help to enable nurses to focus on patients not paperwork. At the same time, we need to look carefully at what Mr Francis says about the training needed to give great physical, mental and emotional care. I know many frontline nurses will agree that the absence of training requirements for HCAs cannot possibly be the right way forward.
Third, in Mid Staffordshire, there was a staff survey way back in 2006 in which only around a quarter of staff said they would actually want one of their own relatives to use the hospital that they worked in. If that voice had been acted on, so much of what followed could have been avoided. So we are taking that survey and making it a much more regular assessment. This Friends and Family Test of staff views will be published and become a fundamental part of the way a hospital is assessed on quality of care - with hospitals boards now suspended for failures in care as well as for failures in finance.
Sign our Speak Out Safely petition to support a transparent and open NHS. We are calling on the government to implement recommendations from the Francis report that will increase protection for staff who raise concerns about patient care.
Visit our Speak out Safely page to find out more.
We will put your voice at the heart of the way the NHS goes about its work, and stand by you if you speak out when things are going wrong. Because the quality of care, the compassion, dignity and respect we want in our hospitals and communities comes from you. And I am backing you to deliver it.