A group of senior nurses set up by the prime minister to advise on ways to improve the quality of care has been left “in limbo”, after apparently being unofficially scrapped.
The Quality Nursing and Care Quality Forum made up of more than 20 experienced frontline nurses was set up by David Cameron in April 2011, as part of efforts to address high profile failings in nursing care.
The group has played a key role in pushing for safe staffing levels, developing leadership in nursing and promoting a culture of compassionate care. However, it has now been told unofficially that it is no longer needed.
“We feel we have done a good job and feel a little bit disappointed that we are being kept in limbo like this”
The forum’s chair, Sally Brearley, told Nursing Times the group’s last meeting was in November and members were aware then that there was a “question mark over our continued existence”.
“We’ve had some discussions with [chief nursing officer for England] Jane Cummings, in particular, about the value or not that she places on the forum,” said Ms Brearley. “I think it’s fair to say she thinks there isn’t a role for the forum, now she has her strategy in place.”
The national nursing strategy for England – Compassion in Practice – was launched in December 2012. The three-year plan includes the “6Cs” – a set of values and behaviours that nurses and midwives are expected to aspire to.
However, Ms Brearley said the forum’s members were “very keen to continue” and that a submission had been made to both David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary.
“A submission was made to the secretary of state and the prime minister about what the future or not of the forum might be, so we are still waiting to hear,” she said. “We feel we have done a good job and feel a little bit disappointed that we are being kept in limbo like this.”
As exclusively revealed by Nursing Times in November, the forum called for the introduction of a minimum staffing level to “bridge the gap” – a policy opposed by the government – until guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence are completed.
But Ms Brearley said she “had not had any direct feedback” to suggest the forum had been dropped because it has been too outspoken on issues like safe staffing levels.
“We’d like to carry on with some more of the same, because there’s still work to be done”
Responding robustly to the Francis report and highlighting the need for safe staffing had been among its key achievements, she argued, as had promoting the importance of staff wellbeing and patient experience. “We’d like to carry on with some more of the same, because there’s still work to be done,” she said.
“We are pleased NICE will be looking at safe staffing but anxious to see how useful that will be, and there is more work to be done on intentional rounding and whether it’s being implemented in the right way, and [on] leadership within the profession,” Ms Brearly told Nursing Times.
“The secretary of state asked us a relatively short time ago to work with the Care Quality Commission, so we would like the opportunity to pursue that, as well as work on pre-nursing care experience.”
She also highlighted the latest Royal College of Nursing Frontline First report, describing its findings as “extremely concerning”. The report, published last week, revealed a significant drop in the number of senior nurses on bands 7 and 8.
She said if the forum was going to be scrapped, then members would like to have a final meeting to review progress and highlight areas that still needed work.
The Department of Health would neither confirm nor deny that the forum had been scrapped. A spokeswoman said: “All members will be kept informed of any future changes to the group.”
NHS England declined an offer to respond.