The Royal College of Nursing has reiterated its opposition to splitting its union and professional roles.
The college has published its detailed response to Robert Francis QC’s public inquiry report into failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
In his seminal report, published in February, Mr Francis said the RCN was “ineffective” in Stafford Hospital.
In its 72-page response to the Francis report, unveiled on Monday, the college accepted it could have done more locally at Mid Staffordshire. RCN chief executive Peter Carter said: “Since the events at the hospital were first reported we have improved the support we provide to our members to ensure they can more easily tell us when things are going wrong.”
But Mr Carter rejected any need to change the RCN’s current structure and said its members had overwhelmingly told it that its two functions “complement rather than conflict with one another”.
However, he added that the RCN was not taking Mr Francis’ recommendations “lightly” and was “working hard to better promote our work as a professional body and ensure our two roles work more closely together”.
The RCN backed the Francis report’s idea of a “named nurse” for every patient, though it cautioned that trusts needed to ensure they had sufficient staff to do this.
The college acknowledged that “a very small but distinct minority of staff in the NHS exhibits attitudes and behaviours that are detrimental to patients”. But it rejected suggestions that this was linked to nursing students and said most poor behaviour was exhibited by older staff.
It said more must be done to tackle burnout, stating: “The RCN believes the NHS often sets up good people to do bad things; through constant change, chronic under-staffing and unrelenting pressure, staff have kindness and compassion eroded from them.”
The RCN said it supported moves to encourage staff to speak up, but said Mr Francis’s calls for a duty of candour on individuals requiring them to inform managers of serious incidents could create a “culture of fear”.
Recognising the importance of leadership, the college said it supported strengthening the ward sister role, but it did not accept Mr Francis’s call to create an “older person’s nurse”.
The college stated: “Robert Francis has set out a clear direction for the future of the health service; the onus is now on all of us to make sure we follow it.”
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