The country’s top nurse has said colleagues who fail to demonstrate “compassion and empathy” to patients have no place in the NHS, following a damning report into failings of care at Stafford Hospital.
Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England, said she was “shocked and appalled” at the behaviour of some members of her profession after the findings of a public inquiry into Mid Staffordshire Trust were published.
Robert Francis QC, who led the inquiry, uncovered a “disaster” in the standards of basic care and medical treatment for some of the most vulnerable and elderly patients.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Ms Cummings said: “As a nurse of 30 years, I was shocked and appalled that members of our profession let patients down in this way, and betrayed the trust that they and their families had put in nurses and care staff, when they most needed help.
“People in Stafford are rightly upset and angry, and the report sets out some examples that are very hard to read.
“I would never want a member of my family to suffer the indignity, pain and fear that some patients at Stafford endured.”
Ms Cummings said that while there were many “excellent and committed” nurses working in the NHS, the evidence from Stafford hospital was “damning”.
She continued: “The reality is that there are some nurses who do not have the capacity to be compassionate and truly care, despite training and support.
“They have no place in the NHS. We only want nurses who come to work to make a difference for their patients and are prepared to take personal responsibility for individuals in their care.
“There is no room in the nursing and midwifery professions for people who don’t have empathy with their patients.”
Ms Cummings said she would work with NHS medical director Professor Bruce Keogh as he investigates the trusts with mortality rates higher than average.
She added: “I want the profession to work together, with honesty and openness, to rebuild the trust in our profession and make a positive difference to those we care for.”
In his inquiry into the trust, Mr Francis uncovered failings at every level of the NHS and said the culture among healthcare staff must change.
He said: “What we need to avoid is yet another wholesale reorganisation of abolishing organisations and creating new ones.
“This is about how people behave when they go to work and their ability to raise concerns and be honest about what’s going on in their hospitals.”
He said none of the 290 recommendations covered in his report “have been made lightly” and hoped all would be adopted in full.
The change would only happen when NHS managers, clinicians and staff started to address the failings “rather than waiting to be told what to do from Whitehall, or by the top of the NHS,” he added.
His comments came after it emerged there were 3,000 more deaths than expected at another five NHS trusts between 2010 and last year.
Professor Keogh has now launched a review into Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Trust, East Lancashire Hospitals Trust, Colchester Hospital University Trust, Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Trust and Tameside Hospital Trust.
Patients’ campaigner Julie Bailey, whose elderly mother Bella died at Stafford hospital, called for individuals in the NHS to be held accountable for the failings in care.
She said: “This is an opportunity to put down the gauntlet and say enough is enough.
“From today you will be held accountable for your actions - it’s no good saying in the future you will be held accountable.
“We want accountability for the hundreds of deaths and the suffering our loved ones had to put up with.”