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Put names of nurse above every bed, says health secretary


The name of the nurse responsible for a patient’s care should be written above their bed, health secretary said last week in a speech on the “silent scandal of patient safety”.

Speaking at University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust, Jeremy Hunt called for a “new culture of openness, transparency and accountability” in the health service.

“However superb the team, the buck always needs to stop with someone and the patient has every right to know who that person is,” he said. “We should return to having the name of the responsible consultant and responsible nurse written above every patient’s bed.”

Mr Hunt praised UCLH and King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust for having already agreed to introduce the measure, adding that a seminar was also scheduled to take place with the professions, regulators and employers to discuss “how best this can be taken forward in the NHS”.

He made strong references in the speech to the scandals at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust.

“We must ask ourselves whether we have become so numbed to the inevitability of patient harm that we accept the unacceptable,” he said. “It is time for a major rethink.”

As well as clinician names above beds, Mr Hunt called for greater efforts to reduce the number of “never events”, better ways of measuring patient safety on wards and the need for a “big focus” from trusts on engaging staff on safety issues.   

Responding to Mr Hunt, Royal College of Nursing general secretary and chief executive Peter Carter said: “The concept of a ‘responsible nurse’ for each patient recognises that nurses are at the centre of patient care, and a move towards a more patient-focused approach is to be welcomed.

“However, every care setting is different and for this to work effectively this must be something which is carefully implemented, and supported by the right staffing levels.”


Are you able to Speak Out Safely? Sign our petition to put pressure on your trust to support an open and transparent NHS.


Readers' comments (70)

  • More stupidity. Why not add the name of the surgeon, the registrar, pharmacist, OT, Physio, cleaner, cook, dietitian, managers, accountant, and health minister etc etc?? I thought we work in teams now. Just another blow to hard working, understaffed nurses to avoid looking at the real issues.

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  • hear, hear we dont know which end of the hospital we are at until the begining of the shift and that can change and through the day no matter who is put in focus we all get blamed even down to "one pat of butter or two" and it my turn for the toliet next, yes yes get to the real issues we are ruled by what patients want and them themselves put them and all patients safety in danger thay are a law to themselves and dont do as their ask. all we get is abuse its got nothing to do with patients safety just who they can throw the darts at?

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  • WHAT?

    don't take any notice of ministers telling nurses how to do their job. only nurses can make such decisions of what is and what is not necessary and will enhance their work.

    it is time somebody told politicians to leave nurses alone to get on with their job with some serious and apt resources and that nursing is not just a game of silly bees to be toyed with!

    In a nut shell, so far: austerity - cut back on essential staff and resources - blame nurses, blame GPs, blame 111 and even try blaming the poor patients - try to point out their deficiencies by patronising the nurses - coming up with silly schemes instead of identifying the real problems. these politicians (and anybody else involved, PM, NMC, CQC, CNOs, CEOs, etc) remind me of a cat teasing its small and innocent victim with its paw until the very last breath is knocked out of it!

    Please feel free to fill in any gaps in my brief assessment.

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  • Another knee jerk reaction, to a problem, no real thought behind this.Basically the Named Nurse we used to have, which never worked. Nurses and Consulants have completely different roles. Nurses do not have caseloads and follow patients throughout their Hospial journey. A nurse may admit a patient on one shift, becoming the Named Nurse, then be off for 3 days or be moved to another ward, off duties changed day by day to cover shortfalls etc, etc. This would not enhance Patient care, but enhance the culture of blame. Will they never learn?!!!

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  • I worked in both the hospitals mentioned in the days when they had the 'named nurse', but that was also in the days when staffing was much better, patients were admitted to the right ward and stayed there, nurses were not moved around to help out understaffed wards, and we could actually look after our patients properly

    I tell a patient I am looking after them on that particular shift, I do my utmost to offer the best care possible and put 110% effort into everything I do. I am not the only member of staff involved in a patients care, we are all equally responsible for everything we do (or don't do) for that patient.

    "the buck stops here" attitude will just have managers calling their staff in with the 'well you were their named nurse" - reply - 'yes but I had a day off, I haven't got a clue what you are talking about, I was not there".

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  • I love the way the 'right staffing levels' has been slipped in at the very bottom of this article. Without the right staffing levels nothing will improve, nurses will not have their names above patients beds, it will not make the slightest difference despite what knee-jerk reaction the govt make.

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  • We do this anyway. What a load of rubbish.

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  • The name of the Consultant is always written on the board above a patients bed, therefore the name of the Consultant Nurse (remember them?) should appear above the patients bed too, anything else would be discrimination. You do not see the Registrars name, the F2 or the F1 name above the bed so you could not have individual nurses names either.

    Patients are looked after by a team of doctors and a team of nurses, one of each is never going to be solely responsible for a patients care.

    The many, many highly paid people who come up with these ideas don't seem to have any idea of what doctors and nurses actually do or how THEIR health service runs.

    Isn't the entire health service the responsibility of the health minister and the
    various mini-ministers appointed.

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  • How does having the nurses name above a bed improve the patients outcome?
    How does it improve staffing levels and skill mix?
    Why does the health minister think the named nurse concept didn't work?
    As he is ultimately responsible for health care in the UK can we put his name above all the patients beds?
    What will be the next gimmick to pacify the media?
    What will be the next suggestion made ensuring that nurses take the full blame for everything that is wrong with the health system?

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  • How about a safe staffing ratio, let’s say 4:1 and let’s throw in to the mix a decent skill mix and perhaps the name over everyone’s bed should be – ‘Jeremy Hunt’.

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