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David Cameron: 'We will stand by you if you speak out when things are going wrong'


Great nursing is about putting patient care first and everything else second, says David Cameron

What happened at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust shocked and appalled us all. But I know - and the whole country knows - that in most cases, nurses represent the very best of our NHS. Whether it’s easing a pain, offering that vital word of comfort or treating a vulnerable patient in their home, there are hundreds of thousands of nurses in our hospitals and communities whose tireless work and compassionate care deserves our unending gratitude and admiration.

I know you feel betrayed by what happened in Mid Staffordshire. You are determined to put things right - and the biggest lesson we can learn is to help you, by putting power back in your hands, not taking it away from you.

Somewhere in the last decade one of this country’s greatest professions has been undermined. From the stifling bureaucracy that means it can take longer to fill in forms about patients than to treat them, to the pursuit of targets without sufficient regard for the quality of care - too often when nurses have wanted to do the right thing, the system has failed to support them.

“We will put your voice at the heart of the way the NHS goes about its work”

The whole approach to caring needs to be reset. And it needs to start with one simple fact: great nursing is about putting patient care first and everything else second.

That means we need proper nurse leadership throughout our wards and communities, delivering the Compassion in Practice vision by focusing on the highest possible standards of care. It means we need to give nurses more time to care by scrapping bureaucracy and properly training healthcare assistants to support them. And it means we need the voice of nurses ringing through the boardrooms of hospitals and informing the priorities of regulators and the Department of Health itself.

In our response to the Francis report later this month, we will address these issues.

First, we need to invest in nurse leadership so there is a figure of authority to ensure the highest possible standards of care - including zero tolerance of healthcare-associated infections. Leadership is a full-time job. Facing an increasing flow of patients with more acute conditions, it is becoming ever more difficult to expect a nurse who is overseeing the care provided by others, to be simultaneously treating patients themselves. That is why Robert Francis QC recommended ward sisters should operate in a supervisory capacity.

Second, we need to give nurses the time to care. There must be no place for those who put box-ticking over care, respect and dignity. And a £100m technology fund will help to enable nurses to focus on patients not paperwork. At the same time, we need to look carefully at what Mr Francis says about the training needed to give great physical, mental and emotional care. I know many frontline nurses will agree that the absence of training requirements for HCAs cannot possibly be the right way forward.

Third, in Mid Staffordshire, there was a staff survey way back in 2006 in which only around a quarter of staff said they would actually want one of their own relatives to use the hospital that they worked in. If that voice had been acted on, so much of what followed could have been avoided. So we are taking that survey and making it a much more regular assessment. This Friends and Family Test of staff views will be published and become a fundamental part of the way a hospital is assessed on quality of care - with hospitals boards now suspended for failures in care as well as for failures in finance.

Sign our Speak Out Safely petition to support a transparent and open NHS. We are calling on the government to implement recommendations from the Francis report that will increase protection for staff who raise concerns about patient care.

Visit our Speak out Safely page to find out more.

We will put your voice at the heart of the way the NHS goes about its work, and stand by you if you speak out when things are going wrong. Because the quality of care, the compassion, dignity and respect we want in our hospitals and communities comes from you. And I am backing you to deliver it.


Readers' comments (56)

  • Do you believe this?

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  • No I don't believe it for one minute but maybe he has to be seen to be on our side so that the govt cannot be blamed for the state of the NHS.

    I don't feel betrayed by Mid Staffs, I feel betrayed by a govt that allowed this to continue despite warnings.

    Is he now going to bow down to pressure to regulate and train HCAs - let's wait and see.

    As for ward sisters being in a supervisory role, will that include staff nurses who are regularly on duty when there is no sister about and who have to co-ordinate the ward? what's the difference between a sister and a staff nurse co-ordinating and overseeing the ward? will there always be a trained nurse in a 'supervisory role' on each shift - no, didn't think so.

    The tick box paperwork, when it goes IT all that happens is that you tick a box on an Ipad instead of on a piece of paper.

    No mention of nurse:patient staffing levels, skillmix, staff welfare, job cuts, pension cuts or salary cuts.

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  • PDave Angel | 5-Mar-2013 8:17 am

    unreservedly YES!

    don't misjudge others unless you wish to be misjudged yourself!

    don't misjudge others and make false assumptions about them unless you are a clairvoyant and can see into their minds and read their thoughts!

    too many health care professionals ignore symptoms and feelings of pain. these are what the patient says they are and not somebody else's judgement of what they think they should be!

    I would add that leadership begins at the very top , in parliament and in the DH down, and from the very bottom up in everybody being allowed to make their full contribution to good care and having their say (listened to) on how this should be. Everybody must be involved and everybody must participate and those who fail should be supported, and if for any reason they are unable to comply after a reasonable amount of time and training, thrown out.

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  • Sorry anonymous if you think I do not believe him. I was simply asking a question.

    And about clairvoyance, I do readings and am highly sensitive which is why I am not a nurse. I'll simply burst into tears if I couldn't help anybody in severe pain.

    Pain is very, very personal and when I do healings - laying on hands, sending healing - I accept the person is in pain and I always assume its too much when the person asks me to relieve it.

    Once again, I am sorry. I was only asking a question and I didn't mean to hurt you

    PDave ANGEL

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  • PDave Angel | 5-Mar-2013 1:11 pm

    laying on of hands has nothing to do with nursing. nursing skills are learnt after long and intensive training and the acquisition of knowledge. the application of this knowledge and these skills is science-based as well as being an art.

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  • I know. That's why I can never be a nurse.
    I really respect nurses

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  • Anonymous

    He needs to explain, IN DETAIL, how staff who criticise impositions from higher up 'the chain' will be protected - not just saying 'we will stand by you'.

    His record on standing by Mitchell seemed rather weak, to say the least - we will hang you out to dry, seems a possibility, if this isn't totally nailed down !

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  • tinkerbell

    pain cannot be seen, it has to be what the patient say it is. Symptoms are what the patient feels, signs are what can be seen.

    Do I believe what David Cameron says, i would love to but what's being said and what is actually happening are worlds apart.

    I would like a date for when this new era of nursing is actually going to kick in, cos we're hanging by a thread.

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  • Question:
    Why doesn't the Prime Minister simply order all the trusts to publish all the nurse's complaints?

    And why the need to whistleblow in the first place?

    Also what didn't he mention? understaffing cuts, nurse's fears etc

    I can feel other people's sadness and pain. Its simply awful to see somone crying. For me, a Nurse is someone who "takes the pain away and makes it better"

    A Nurse needs courage, bravery, strength, to stand up for patients, to say what is wrong, to be kind and gentle and to have endless patience.

    PDave ANGEL

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  • Of course, we shouldn't believe David Cameron!!! He's lied consistently since slimy dealing his way into Number 10. The guy has form.

    Meanwhile the catastrophic cuts in staffing levels, the privatisation of the NHS in England (which never appeared in any manifesto) and the dismantling of and reduction in nurses terms and conditions continue unchallenged. That's the "...everything else second.." he was talking about in the first sentence!

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