Jeremy Hunt has indicated that compassion will be at the core of a national review of nursing education and training – leading some nurses to accuse him of missing the point on the issue.
As revealed by Nursing Times last week, a major review of pre- and post-registration training for nurses and midwives in England is to be carried out to improve standards of patient care.
The Shape of Caring review will be launched in May with a report expected early in 2015. Health Education England said it would look at improving education to “produce healthcare professionals of high calibre, who are able to meet the changing needs of patients and the broader population”.
“The NHS stands for compassionate care or it stands for nothing”
But the health secretary emphasised compassion and dignity as key focuses for the work when he subsequently announced the review via a story in the Daily Telegraph on 24 April.
Compassion is one of the key values – known as the “6Cs” – in the national nursing strategy for England. However, it has also become a political buzzword for Mr Hunt, who has referred to the theme frequently in his speeches on the NHS and nursing in particular.
He told the Telegraph: “The NHS stands for compassionate care or it stands for nothing – and we know that for many patients, compassionate nursing makes all the difference. The central lesson of the Francis report into the tragic events of Mid Staffs is the need to treat patients with respect and dignity.”
“Surprise, surprise, the spotlight will be on compassion”
However, Mr Hunt was criticised by a number nurses on social media site Twitter, who argued that insufficient resources and lack of staff were the real issues affecting whether nurses showed patients compassion and dignity.
Meanwhile, nursing blogger Grumbling Appendix stated: “Surprise, surprise, the spotlight will be on ‘compassion’ – even though there is no hard evidence that nurses as a group lack compassion and plenty of evidence that better educated nurses produce better patient outcomes.”
Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “The vast majority of nurses are highly caring and compassionate, upholding the traditions and values of profession, and putting patients first to provide the best possible care despite often difficult circumstances and overstretched resources.”
He added: “Any drive to ensure the culture in all organisations in the NHS is one that puts patient care first is welcome. Nurse education and recruitment is just one aspect of this drive, along with strong leadership and the right numbers of staff in the right areas.”
The review will be led by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Willis of Knaresborough, who carried out a similar review for the RCN in 2012.
Lord Willis told the Telegraph the review would also focus on how to recruit older nurses. He said: “There has been an over-emphasis on 18 to 21-year-olds when actually what we need is more [of] a pathway for mature men and women with life experience, who can see nursing as a second career.”