Newly qualified nurses acting as “care makers” will go into hospitals and care homes to help promote nursing values under a package of nursing policies unveiled by prime minster David Cameron.
The role will be voluntary and intended to build on the success of the “games makers” at last year’s London Olympics, who volunteered to make sure the games ran smoothly.
They will act as role models and ambassadors for the professional values set out in the new nursing strategy, Compassion in Nursing, which was published at the end of last year.
Around 50 “care makers” have already been recruited. They attended the chief nursing officer’s annual conference last month and were selected because they embody the values associated with compassionate care.
Other initiatives announced by the prime minister on 4 January included the nomination of a designated dementia champion in every ward and a dementia nursing specialist in every NHS organisation.
Healthcare assistants will be given more career development opportunities to train as registered nurses, while all staff will have access to e-learning course on dementia funded by the Department of Health.
In addition, the 10% of acute trusts that have not yet adopted hourly ward rounds will be “urged” to do so by the end of 2013-14. Chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings has been handed responsibility to ensure this takes place.
The Care Quality Commission has also been asked to carry out a “root and branch review” of induction training for care staff.
Other measures set out by Mr Cameron include rolling out the “friends and family test” to primary care, community services and district nursing.
The test – where patients are asked if they would recommend the service they received – is currently in use in hospitals across the Midlands and East region and is due to be rolled out nationally in acute trusts from April. Mr Cameron will also call for staff to be asked for their views regularly.
He said: “We know what an incredible job nurses do – and how much we ask of them. So we’re giving nurses more support to deliver these changes but also help for all NHS staff, healthcare assistants and carers. Good quality care must be everyone’s business.
“It is crucial that we continue to rebuild confidence in the quality of care in our country – and I hope this effort will help us to do that.”
Chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Peter Carter welcomed the announcement and the prime minister’s acknowledgment that most nurses do an incredible job.
“We are particularly pleased to see a commitment to improved training and development for healthcare assistants,” he said.
“The root and branch review to be undertaken by the CQC should help to address the situation where new care staff have been expected to care for patients without proper training and supervision.”
Unison head of nursing Gail Adams gave the package of measures a cautious welcome.
She said: “The principle behind this initiative is good, but the NHS is under severe financial pressure. We have seen cuts across the board, and without significant additional funding to implement these plans locally, organisations are likely to struggle.”
She added: “Nurses make the best advocates for patients, but they can only do this if they are employed in sufficient numbers, in the right place and at the right time to provide safe, compassionate and dignified care.”
Unison also said that comparisons between “care makers” and Olympics “games makers” were misleading. Volunteers make an invaluable contribution to services when they complement existing staff levels, rather than replacing them, the union said in a statement.
Louise Silverton, the Royal College of Midwives’ director for midwifery, said she welcomed the expansion of the friends and family test.
“It will lead to women choosing maternity units where they believe they will get high-quality maternity care or go for a home birth or to a midwife-led unit, if these are rated positively by other women,” she said.