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Quality of care linked to staff support, says Hunt


Improving the quality of care given by nurses and other healthcare professionals will be a major priority for the NHS over the next two years, after health secretary Jeremy Hunt made it central to his first NHS mandate.

Under the Health Act, which aimed to reduce political interference in the NHS, the mandate is the primary means by which the health secretary can influence the health service.

The document was laid before Parliament on Tuesday. It set a number of objectives for the NHS Commissioning Board to achieve by March 2015. They include ensuring the NHS becomes among the best in Europe at helping people with long term conditions to live independently and gets “dramatically better” at involving patients in decisions about their care.

Launching the mandate, Mr Hunt said: “Never in its long history has the NHS faced such rapid change in our healthcare needs, from caring for an older population, to managing the cost of better treatments, to seizing the opportunities of new technology.

“This mandate is about giving the NHS the right priorities to deal with those challenges. We do not want an NHS that focuses on narrow performance indicators but instead looks at true measures of whether all of us are receiving the highest quality of care.”

It is intended that the NHS Commissioning Board - which will oversee planning of NHS care from April next year - will work with local GP-led clinical commissioning groups to bring about improvements, including by writing them into contracts with hospitals and other providers.

The mandate also tasks the commissioning board with reducing avoidable harm by creating a culture of patient safety and making “rapid progress” in collecting patients’ views on the care they receive.

It recognises that quality of care is linked to how well organisations “engage, manage and support their own staff”. It suggests NHS staff should be asked more regularly whether they would recommend their organisation to friends and family in a drive to bring about improvements. Currently most NHS staff are asked once a year as part of the staff survey.

Elaine Maxwell, assistant director of the Health Foundation and a former nursing director, said the government had previously tended to have a more medical focus on measuring treatment efficacy, while the mandate recognised nursing’s contribution much more than before.

“The mandate moves away from having numeric targets and it talks about care in a more holistic way. That’s really important for nursing’s role because nurses are often the care managers,” she told Nursing Times.

Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter welcomed the commitment to improving quality.

He said: “We hope that it will be a meaningful and usable set of principles that embodies the purpose of the service so that it is fit to meet its considerable challenges. We believe that it is right for the NHS to be ambitious, and to aspire to extend lives and improve mental as well as physical health.”


Readers' comments (8)

  • Tinkerbell

    you're so funny, Dr Desperate, what like the support we are receiving at the moment under this tory regime. Don't make me laugh, such hypocrisy should get some kind of a prize.

    The beatings will cotinue until morale improves.

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  • michael stone

    Getting a bit more analytical than Tink was (although Tink was right),

    ' We do not want an NHS that focuses on narrow performance indicators but instead looks at true measures of whether all of us are receiving the highest quality of care.”'

    The NHS has always liked to measure clinical outcomes because they can be measured by clinicians/statisticians - the 'new measures' being suggested here are much closer to 'does the patient think he was being cared for properly ?' and although I agree that if the answer is 'Definitely not !!!' then something is very wrong, it is very difficult to neatly fit this approach into the statistically-obsessed NHS bureaucracy !

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  • jeremy hunt does not give a stuff about nurses or the nhs

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  • Tinkerbell

    DH Agent - as if ! | 14-Nov-2012 11:38 am

    There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
    Benjamin Disraeli

    And when it comes to matters of the heart i am not very analytical.

    One instinctively knows when one smells a pile of poop.

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  • Hunt you're a !!!!

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  • Tinkerbell

    Hunt is an unfortunate name to have if you are despised. Although i can swear with the best of them it is a word i never use but i could be swayed under these circumstances, but i won't, I have more than enough other swear words i can use.

    I don't doubt though that along the corridors of westminster he gets called it all the time by some fellow MP's who have no objection to that particular swear word and detest what the torys are doing to our country.

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  • Is this meant to be a piece of journalism or a tory party mouthpiece? Did you bother to do any actual reporting or did Hunt give you a press release with this on word for word? We wonder why nursing is so divorced from politics and apathy is a cancer on the profession. How about a contrasting view from, say, Burnham?

    Lansley's Act and Hunt's Mandate are simply vehicles to remove the state from care provision "reducing political interference", fragmenting services, introducing postcode lotteries and filling the pockets of donors to the tory party coffers like Branson. To make a profit he and his ilk will either employ less qualified or unqualified staff, or cut services. This will affect patient care. The NHS providers are being set up to fail, to justify transfer of services to private providers.

    Asking searching questions, assessing the implications of this ideologically driven change, promoting debate, highlighting the performance of private providers and comparing them to NHS providers may be a step towards a piece of journalism to inform the profession. Challenging unacceptable issues such as why do private providers have the ability to ignore Freedom of Information requests, yet NHS providers have to respond? Why does the gvt provide a £4million bung to Circle, yet refuse the same support to some NHS providers?

    These are important questions, directly impacting on nursing and therefore patient care. Isn't that what we are meant to protect? I'm sure I read that in our code of conduct.

    There are some fundamental editorial issues that NT needs to address - clearly the only people who want this new ideology are those who will benefit the most, ie tory donors. Should NT be reflecting nursing opinion, or merely reporting Hunt verbatim?

    And Tink, i just wondred if you heard how James Naughtie pronounced Hunt's name on the Today programme?

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  • Tinkerbell

    Andrew Fishburn | 14-Nov-2012 9:32 pm

    Well said and no i never heard James Naughtie I was responding to Anonymous | 14-Nov-2012 3:08 pm cos' i guessed this is what was meant.

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