The prime minister’s new “nursing forum” must include the impact of staffing levels in its review of care standards, according to nurse leaders.
As revealed by nursingtimes.net last Thursday, David Cameron has announced the creation of a Nursing Quality Forum to suggest ways to tackle shortcomings in “dignity and respect” for patients, and to promote initiatives including routine ward rounds, the productive ward scheme and cutting red tape (see box below).
His announcement is a response to a raft of reports last year highlighting poor care involving nurses, as well as recent scandals such as that at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
Mr Cameron said the problems were due to nurses being taken away from frontline care. He said: “If we want dignity and respect, we need to focus on nurses and the care they deliver. Caring for patients is what nurses do. Everything else comes second.”
The government said the forum, which will be made up of yet-to-be chosen nurses and patients, would focus in particular on spreading good practice. Senior sources involved in setting up the review said its precise terms of reference were not yet clear.
But nursing leaders said if the group wanted to address care standards and quality it would have to look at issues including nurse numbers and the balance between qualified staff and healthcare assistants.
Royal College of Nursing head of policy Howard Catton said: “Staffing is so fundamental, so intrinsically linked to care and outcomes, that this group has to be able to consider those issues.
“We think the time has come to move to guaranteed staffing levels. Variation [in staffing] is too great. This is an even more fundamental issue in light of what the prime minister has said – the case for it has been made even more clearly.”
Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: “All the research points to higher nurse to patient ratios delivering higher outcomes. Yet all over the country, nursing posts are being frozen, or even lost.”
PM on improving nursing care:
- All hospitals to implement NHS Institute Productive Ward - Releasing Time to Care programme by April 2013, with 20 trusts given “targeted support”, particularly focusing on elderly care.
- Set up a Nursing Quality Forum to “identify good practice and advise on what is best to implement” and tackle barriers to spread.
- The Forum to “secure greater frontline nursing leadership in the future”, “exhibit national leadership” and “stimulate local action by those delivering care to address problems and promote the improvements”.
- The Forum to launch a “red tape challenge”, identifying “pieces of bureaucracy which get in the way of [nurses] performing their jobs properly”.
- The Forum to encourage uptake of intentional nursing rounds by “raising its profile and demonstrating the benefits”.
- Local HealthWatch organisations to lead patient-led inspection regime from April 2013.
- National surveys to ask “whether patients, carers and staff would recommend their hospital to their families and friends in their hour of need”.