The profession needs to acknowledge that there are problems in nursing - but recognise that instances of poor care delivery that are so often reported by the media are the exceptions. That was the message at the Chief Nursing Officers’ Conference last week, where nearly 400 senior nursing leaders gathered in Manchester to applaud or constructively dissect the nursing strategy presented by CNO for England Jane Cummings and director of nursing for the Department of Health Viv Bennett.
Ms Cummings had been interrogated by the media during the first day of the conference, and eloquently and powerfully told them that those nurses who failed to care for their patients were betraying their excellent peers in the profession.
She is right. Every nurse is having to shoulder the shared guilt of the terrible failings of the few. This isn’t good for individual morale, or the standing and status of the profession as a whole.
This was a point picked up by health secretary Jeremy Hunt on the second day. He said although poor care was rare, it could not be brushed aside. It had happened, and the public needed reassurance that the government - and the profession - was sorting it out.
Nurses need support from the top to ensure their “courage” in speaking out about poor care will not be met with derision, bullying or even disciplinary action
NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson, via video message, also suggested that those nurses neglecting their patients and their duty of care would be rooted out.
Unequivocally, then, the message comes right from the top that there shall be a zero tolerance approach to those who are wilfully flouting the values outlined by the 6Cs nursing vision of care, compassion, courage, commitment, competence and communication.
While the 6Cs met with universal approval at the event, let’s be clear that the profession should not live these values in isolation.
Indeed, many a GP, hospital consultant, physio or OT could benefit from adhering to them. While nursing must own those Cs, it is wrong to suggest the onus for providing compassionate care lies solely with nurses. It will also make it harder for them to live the 6Cs if they are the only health professionals aware of them.
The very best nurses need support from the top to ensure that their “courage” in speaking out about poor care will not be met with derision, bullying or even disciplinary action - as has been the case all too often. Nurses must live by the 6Cs, but their managers must understand them too, and offer every bit of support to ensure they can be achieved in real-life situations, not cast aside to save a few pounds or cut out when resources are tight. If nurses agree those values are to save the future NHS, let’s all show them some respect.
Jenni Middleton, editor
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed