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Nurses 'will win' if they act together over concerns, says Francis

The chair of the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry has called on nurses to act together when they have concerns about services or patient safety.

Robert Francis QC addressed delegates at the chief nursing officer’s summit earlier today during a session on complaints and complaints handling.

In answer to a question from Unison head of nursing Gail Adams, Mr Francis said: “It’s important that people act in groups.

“You, the professionals, have forgotten the power you have if you act together. If you allow people to be picked off because you don’t like them personally…you will lose,” he said.

“But if you stand together in a positive professional way you will win, but more importantly the patients will win as well,” he added.

Mr Francis was also asked about his views on staffing levels, in the wake of the government’s response to his seminal report on Mid Staffordshire.

As part of its announcement last week the government said it would be requiring trusts to regularly publish ward staffing levels – both actual and needed.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has also been asked to draw up guidance on safe staffing in different care settings –beginning with adult inpatient wards – after an earlier commitment from ministers.

Mr Francis welcomed the government’s plans for trusts to publish staffing data and that NICE was working on a national set of guidance.

“We do need the transparency, and I’m encouraged to see that we will know, I hope, on a ward by ward basis what the level should be and what is actually being provided,” he said.

“What’s important is that people [trusts] aren’t allowed to invent their own measures [of staffing] that aren’t any good,” he added.

But Mr Francis said he would like the NHS “to stop talking and start doing” on staffing levels.

“What I actually want to see is some proper evidence-based guidance produced, so that we can stop arguing about what are the right levels… and we actually make sure there is a safe and effective level all the time in every single place,” he said.

He added that he did not think that a single ratio – such as the one nurse for every eight patients put forward by the Safe staffing Alliance – was the answer. But he said the alliance’s research did “need consideration and to be factored” into the NICE guidance.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • michael stone

    'Divide and conquer' {i.e. force staff to raise concerns individually, as opposed to raising concerns as a Ward, or even wider unit} is an obvious 'tactic' to impede the raising of issues managers would find inconvenient or awkward to deal with - I'm pleased Francis has made that clear.

    So now - and NT's SOS could fit in here - we need to see hospital policies removing any clause that actively requires complaints/concerns to be raised by individual staff, and the insertion of clauses which state that pre-discussion of concerns amongst staff, followed by the raising of conerns 'by a group of people' is a GOOD thing.

    This is for 'systemic' issues - not ad hominem 'Fred is a danger to patients' concerns.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Nurses by definition never stand together or speak as one on any issue; they'd rather bitch and whinge and slag off their colleagues than offer support.

    Unfortunately there are too many that quite happily sit with their heads in the sand and never open their mouths about any issue as they're too focused on their own career progression to rock the boat, as it were.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • The absolute acceptance in which the huge majority of nurses approach being vilified in the right wing press and by the tories while receiving no significant support by the silence of the other parties has opened us up to staring at a brick wall to which we have been delivered by decades of apathy by the least professionally supported
    of professions, the RCN carry a huge weight of responsibility in this

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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