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Nursing must not carry the can for Mid Staffs

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14 January, 2013

While there can be few groups within the NHS looking forward to the Francis report into Mid Staffordshire Trust, the nursing profession appears to have most to fear. Large swathes of the general media already seem to assume that the largest proportion of blame rests with nurses.

They will almost certainly report numerous distressing stories of neglect and appalling practice among nurses at the hospital. They will also doubtless demand major changes to nurse education, question once more the move to degree-only entry, and accuse nurses of becoming at best box-ticking robots and at worst cruel sadists who cannot be bothered to cross a ward to help a patient in distress.

There is, of course, no excuse for what happened in Stafford, and it is crucial that lessons are learned so it can never be repeated. And yes, some nurses are individually culpable. But that is far from the whole story – other individuals and professions played their part in these tragic events, so why is nursing being singled out for such vilification? Why is there an assumption that nursing is broken and that all the failings can be laid at its door?

The Daily Telegraph has been particularly keen to accuse the profession, yet its sister paper the Sunday Telegraph reported that complaints had been received about 41 doctors and ‘at least’ 29 nurses at the trust. Given the ratio of doctors to nurses, it would be reasonable to assume that by far the greater proportion of complaints would be about nurses, yet I don’t hear doctors being attacked so vociferously.

Nursing cannot be allowed to carry the can for all the wrongs at Mid Staffordshire. Yes, it must hold up its hands and accept its share of the blame, but other professions must do the same. Nurses cannot fail so spectacularly in a vacuum – it takes an entire hospital and numerous failures in regulatory systems to allow up to 1,200 people to die unnecessarily.

If the NHS is to learn from Mid Staffordshire, the Francis report must be considered in an even-handed manner with a willingness to make changes wherever they are needed rather than focusing on one profession.

And the government must be willing to take a constructive approach to addressing any resource issues that this raises. Anything less is unfair to the nursing profession and, more importantly, an insult to the people who died needlessly and the families they left behind.

Readers' comments (32)

  • Thank you.

    Nurses are easy targets.The media hate nurses, they have a lot to answer for.

    Let's hope everyone involved is held responsible, that includes the management, the government, and the regulatory bodies.

    If it also means a change to nurse education then that is what must happen.

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  • Hospital patient forced to walk 23-mile journey home in middle of the night
    A 62-year old patient suffering from breathing difficulties was told to walk the 23-mile journey home in the early hours of the morning on New Year's Day after he was discharged from hospital, he claims.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9794340/Hospital-patient-forced-to-walk-23-mile-journey-home-in-middle-of-the-night.html

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  • Yes But

    why is nursing being singled out for such vilification?

    ________________________

    I think that is because a lot of the criticism was about what is often described as an uncaring attitude, and nurses are seen as 'carers' in a way that doctors are not. Lots of comments are coming out of goverment about 'culture and caring' and nursing needs to get a grip, accept that nurses are fundamental to the clinician-patient interaction in its widest sense, and assert that if 'caring' is to be more highly valued, then input from nurses who are interacting with their patients has got to be respected more within decision making.

    And I do NOT mean 'more formal meetings' - I mean a formal recognition, that nurses are best-placed to 'get the feel of' patient 'feedback' !

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  • do any nurses still believe anything they read in the press? why is someone still referring us to the Telegraph at every opportunity?

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  • If the profession had better leadership then maybe some (often justified) criticism could be defected.

    Many of the bad news stories have roots in poorly staffed and chronically overworked clinical environment.

    Trust CNO,s collude as sycophants in reducing the RN workforce and the deliberate expansion of the numbers of ill educated, poorly skilled "care" assistants.

    In England we, as professional nurses, can have pride in a CHIEF NURSING OFFICER who really gets to grip with real problems by telling fairy stories about angels with 6C's!

    Robert Francis' will, I believe, have sympathy for clinical nurses who for to long have been subject to the most appalling standards of "Nurse Management"

    I really hope these "managers" who have led and supported the tragic decline in the standard of nursing receive the sound kicking which is richly deserved.

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  • Nurses played a MAJOR role in the appalling Mid Staffs disaster.

    Have you forgotten Super Nurse ? one JAN HARRY ? She was responsible for allowing the RN workforce to be decimated, she permitted the skill mix to become dangerous. Harry reconfigured wards , merging two wards in to one and at the same time reducing the number of nurses !

    Some nurses were brave enough to voice concern -----they were bullied and hounded by other so called nurses !

    Clearly Shuttleworth has not read Robert Francis' reports! and I have no doubt supports the latest idiocy which argues that 6C's will make everything better ! HERE is some news ------6C's will not
    replace those nurses who are now on the dole !

    What will make a difference ? -----Lets start with some decent Nurse Management !

    Nurse Managers who close beds if there is not enough nurses .

    Nurse managers who support staff, who listen to concerns and take action on behalf of patients and nurses.

    Nurse mangers who do not support and encourage bullies (look in the first and second Stafford reports )

    By the way Shuttleworth your late off the mark the CEO's and administrators have been building their shelters for some time ----seeking to avoid any flack falling on them. It is even rumoured that attempts are being made to "soften" Mr Francis' report ---- go figure it out !

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  • Anonymous | 15-Jan-2013 9:13 am

    It is no reason to address Ms Shuttleworth so disrespectfully.

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  • Anonymous | 15-Jan-2013 10:12 am

    Well I am so sorry if your offended by what I would argue is simply a robust response to a rather sad and pathetic article which seeks to avoid/dodge/disclaim some major issues.

    Disrespect was not intended but as they say in the north "If the cap fits you are welcome to wear it" !

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  • Phil Dup

    British Society likes a good witchhunt - only a few hundred years ago we were still burning women on fires whilst the whole village came out to watch and dance - that same mentality is still strongly hard wired into the DNA of many of todays village idiots ( aka The Media) and so its 100% guaranteed that Nurses are going to be blamed for everything when this report comes out.
    All we need to do is have a 24 hour all out strike and the whole country would U-Turn in its attitudes overnight.

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  • Jenny Jones | 15-Jan-2013 7:33 am

    If the profession had better leadership then maybe some (often justified) criticism could be defected.

    Many of the bad news stories have roots in poorly staffed and chronically overworked clinical environment.

    Trust CNO,s collude as sycophants in reducing the RN workforce and the deliberate expansion of the numbers of ill educated, poorly skilled "care" assistants.

    In England we, as professional nurses, can have pride in a CHIEF NURSING OFFICER who really gets to grip with real problems by telling fairy stories about angels with 6C's!

    Robert Francis' will, I believe, have sympathy for clinical nurses who for to long have been subject to the most appalling standards of "Nurse Management"

    I really hope these "managers" who have led and supported the tragic decline in the standard of nursing receive the sound kicking which is richly deserved.

    Well said Jenny, I agree with every word you say, especially about the CNO, she is a disaster, not fit for purpose, a government poodle.

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  • According to the Francis report, the trust failed to provide basic care to patient and patients were neglected. Patient left lying on soiled sheeting and sitting on commodes for hours foruderstaffing as a results of budget cut. Do we need highly trained Nurses to carry these basic care? Surely, the right thing to do is to cut down the number of manager and with the saving employ more carers. We do not need to make changes to Nurse education (training) as this will increase in top line nurses who want higher pay. The nurses on the other hand does not need to be blamed for the wrongs at Mid Staffordshire.

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  • maybe this will finally put an end to the degree vs non-degree debate.

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  • Anonymous | 18-Jan-2013 12:18 pm

    I just wonder in whose favour - for or against degrees?

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  • How will the finally put an end to the debate? Do you know that every nurse who was culpable held a degree?

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  • Funny how no one ever mentions the Chief Exec who was running Stafford Hospital when all this was going on? perhaps I'm a little old fashioned in believing the example is set from the top?

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  • No Sarah, you're not. If I was paid that salary, and something went wrong, I would feel I had failed and didn't deserve my position, so I would resign. But no CEO thinks like that, they love money too much.

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  • Lets see what the report finally concludes. Mid staffs could happen in any trust even those who fly their flags the highest. The difference why it does not is the culture, the leadership, the morale, support, values, commitment & sense of pride that deliver the care you would want for your own family, recruit your nurses carefully, deal with the failing ones & stamp out the bad attitudes. As matrons, respect your staff, empower & value them & listen stand up & be counted when you fight for patient safety, don't moan have solution otherwise it's a lonely road then nurses will never take the complete flack for places mid staffs. Oh & don't read the telegraph it's a c*** paper for those who don't live in th real world.

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  • I agree about not reading the Telegraph, or the Mail.

    Someone has suggested we employ more carers and that highly trained nurses shouldn't be changing sheets, helping patients with commodes - this is NOT what we highly trained nurses want - we want to care for our patients, help them in any way we can - that is why we came into nursing. If my senior Clinical Site Manager can help me change a wet sheet I am damn sure the staff nurses and my ward sister can too.

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  • Anonymous | 19-Jan-2013 9:39 am

    I agree. the care of another human being is a great privilege which must never be forgotten. Nobody is above making another human being feel comfortable by whatever means, whether washing them, changing a sheet, emptying a bed pan, speaking to them, allaying their fears, putting them at ease, sharing a simple joke, offering a drink, helping them to eat or whatever they need at the time. It is also beneath nobody and costs nothing to help an overstretched colleague or one who is in distress. Isn't this what care in nursing is all about and isn't nursing all about caring?

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 19-Jan-2013 9:51 am

    Anonymous | 19-Jan-2013 9:39 am


    Total agreement.

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