Exclusive: Every potential student nurse will in future be interviewed and tested to make sure they have the right values and skills to provide good quality care, Nursing Times can reveal.
Robert Francis QC published his long-awaited Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry report last week, making 290 recommendations aimed at transforming culture in the NHS and safeguarding patients.
In light of the report, Nursing Times has been told plans are being drawn up to ensure anyone seeking a qualification to work in healthcare will have to demonstrate they have the right values and attitudes needed to care for patients.
The work is being led by Health Education England, the new national body responsible for ensuring high quality NHS education, training, and workforce development. It was set up in June as part of the government’s health reforms.
In an interview following the publication of the inquiry report, HEE chief executive Professor Ian Cumming accepted testing every course applicant was a challenge.
He said: “It’s not something that can happen overnight but I want to see anyone who is entering training – whether it be for nursing, medical or whatever it may be – to show they have the right skills to work in healthcare.
“If people can’t demonstrate the right values and behaviours they should not get jobs in our NHS. It is as simple as that.”
Professor Cumming said there were a number of ways to test applicants and that HEE would not seek “dictate” to universities which method to use. But he noted that HEE would be working with NHS Employers and others to develop a “series of tools” to test the aptitude and behaviours of students, suggesting universities would be encouraged to use a set of standard national tests.
The public inquiry report also recommended the widespread adoption of aptitude tests for qualified staff seeking employment. They are already used by some NHS organisations, especially in the mental health sector.
Highlighting his key message to “put patients first”, Mr Francis called on employers to check job applicants’ “values, attitudes and behaviours towards the well-being of patients and their basic care needs”.
They formed part of a raft of recommendations on education, training and standards in the NHS targeted at bringing about a cultural shift within the NHS.
For example, the report called on the government to “consider urgently” the introduction of a common “requirement of proficiency in communication in the English language” for healthcare staff.
The report also mooted proposals to increase the focus on the practical aspects of nursing care, with a similar increase in nurse development and leadership.
In addition, Mr Francis called for no students to be accepted on to a nursing course without having spent a minimum of three months working on the direct care of patients under the supervision of a registered nurse.
The report called for national standards in nurse training with the same examinations and a common qualification for all nurses.
Mr Francis also said more must be done to ensure trainee clinicians were able to speak up if they had concerns over the quality of care.
Professor Cumming agreed, saying: “We need to make sure trainees are able to report any concerns.”
“Feedback from trainee doctors and nurses is absolutely critical and one of the things we will be working on… is developing real time feedback from trainees on the quality of their training and the quality of care,” he told Nursing times.
Responding to the inquiry report, the Council of Deans of Health said in a statement it was “critical” that health education budgets were “ring-fenced” so the correct numbers of clinicians were coming through the system and continuing professional development for existing staff was maintained.
It said it recognised the report’s “challenge” to ensure education programmes “minimised the gap between theory and practice and emphasise care and compassion alongside technical skills”.
The government is expected to reveal its full response to the Francis report, including which of Mr Francis’s recommendations it will adopt, next month.