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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.”


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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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  • Mmmm lots of comments, mostly we do this but it is only valid for the shift in question from a nurse/midwife point of view. The consultant name , interesting one, they may never ever see the patient during their in patient stay due to their workload and initiative lists etc , it will be the poor old F1/2 is the medical donkey along with the registrar. Why don't we just get on with caring for patients, we are not a factory so industrial principles cannot be applied across the board. Thank god I retire from management role in very near future I feel for the young nurses how the hell will there be any left to look after me when I am old?!

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  • This idea of Hunt's is truly laudable :-) and why do nurses never think of anything so clever! ;<( How would the services cope without such a leader?

    I have two alternative ideas of how this could be implemented assuming that these are orders to be obeyed!


    give each new nurse a group of beds along with their uniforms when they sign their contract each with their name engraved on a plaque or painted directly on the wall above each one;


    run around changing the names during the hourly intentional rounding for the nurses changing shifts

    in both cases I envision better use of time and resources. Hunt, kindly leave the organisation of the nursing of patients and running of wards to nurses as they know what they are doing!

    Dear Man, I just wonder whether you spend your days engaged in such trivialities that you expect busy professionals in charge of patients healthcare to do the same?

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  • michael stone

    There is an obvious 'theoretical' benefit to having people who are more 'deeply/holistically informed' than can be gleaned by just reading notes, so if hospital behaviour allowed it, naming a doctor who who was deeply familiar with the medical things relating to a patient, and naming a nurse who was deeply familiar with the nursing issues, might be helpful. Mainly, as people to be asked by other colleagues, if anything wasn't very clear. And also, perhaps, to check that 'what is going on' does seem to be making sense (I know what I mean there, but probably others don't: not explaining, it will take too long). I have an instinct that this would be more true for certain types of patient: those with very complex medical issues, or dementia, for example.

    But this depends on that level of 'familiarity with individual patients' being attainable - if it isn't (and I'm guessing it often isn't) then I'm not at all clear what the point of 'named clinicians' is (you need to have records of who did what: who presribed what drug, who assessed which test result, etc - but that isn't the same thing).

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  • Mr Hunt is the person in charge of all patients so I will be putting his name above all the beds.
    Thanks Mr Hunt for this great initiative, nice to have you on board.

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 22-Jun-2013 3:06 pm

    Good one:) Please make sure to get the spelling right though.

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  • How would my putting my name above a patients bed have stopped the mid staffs scandal or the recent morecambe bay scandal.

    we could hold a weekly competition, see which patient had the most named nurses from arrival in a&e to their discharge home.

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  • Put the name of the Chancellor and the Health Minister above the door of every failing trust...

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  • This would only work for a cancer patient who had a named key worker- usually a clinical nurse specialist, who would be involved the whole journey, similar to the medical consultant. Are we suddenly going to invest in lots of CNS posts for all patients?

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  • Above every bed the sign should read.....
    Here Lies (Name & DOB) and a blank space.
    Is that 'patient-focused' enough for you, Mr Hunt?

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  • can't have the d.o.b. with data protection and all that jazz. someone somewhere will complain about it. maybe the patients should wear name-badges:-) or we could have nurses colour-coded with their patients pyjamas. The 'green team' nurse looks after patients with green pyjamas, you get the drift.

    honestly, how on earth have doctors and nurses managed these last 60 odd years without all this help from the government,

    patients names above the beds, yep that is already done, nurses names above the bed - which nurse? the one who spends 10 minutes admitting me, the one who takes over on the late shift, the one on nights, the one who is there for the next couple of days, the one on the next ward I get moved to - oh no, it's the one who admitted me whilst I had a couple of hours in admissions who I can't remember the name of and have never seen again.

    what do you expect from an ex management consultant. perhaps it's time the health service was run by health professionals at all levels.

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