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Campaign sets out dignity code

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The RCN has launched a national campaign calling on nurses and the government to champion patient dignity.

The campaign, called Dignity – At the Heart of Everything We Do, was launched last week at a conference in London attended by senior nurses from across the UK.

As part of the campaign, the college is urging trusts to sign up to a set of dignity principles – drawn up with the Patients Association – setting out minimum standards of care in emergency departments (see box).

Rabina Tindale, a senior emergency care nurse and chairperson of the RCN’s Emergency Care Association, said: ‘The vast majority of nurses do these things as a matter of course but we hope that by signing up to these principles patients will know just how seriously healthcare staff take their dignity.’

‘Respect and dignity are essential ingredients for any relationship,’ added Katherine Murphy, communications director at the Patients Association.

Nurses will also be able to access online training tools and a DVD to help them deliver dignified care to patients.

Additionally, the college has called for dignified care to be enshrined in the forthcoming NHS Constitution, which will be launched to coincide with the health service’s 60th anniversary this week.

It has also called for an end to the target culture in the NHS, which it claims has prevented hospitals and staff from providing dignified care.

A report, unveiled at the conference, detailed findings of an RCN membership survey of 2,047 nurses, carried out this year, that showed nurses thought their ability to offer dignified care was being hindered by the healthcare system (NT News, 29 April, p2).
RCN president Maura Buchanan said: ‘Sometimes there are barriers to providing dignified care for patients – cuts to services and resources, and targets.

‘Moving a 93-year-old patient at four in the morning to hit a four-hour waiting target is an unacceptable solution.’

The College's A&E dignity standards for trusts

  • Reception staff will be welcoming, courteous and helpful

  • Patients should be given a rough estimate of how long they should expect to wait

  • Healthcare professionals dealing directly with patients should formally introduce themselves and their role

  • All staff should ask patients how they would like to be addressed – by using title and surname, or more informally

  • Patients will be looked after in a clean and safe environment – all staff will wash or cleanse hands before each patient contact

  • Patients should be asked for informed consent before any procedure is initiated

  • Patients should be kept up to date with information about their treatment plan

  • Patients should be treated with respect and dignity at all times

  • Staff will do their best to respect and address any religious or cultural needs of patients

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