The government’s failure to make mandatory the recommendation by Robert Francis to get ward sisters out of the office and back with patients and staff is a missed opportunity.
Instead the government response has left it open to “local flexibility” and also open to it not happening.
For many years the role of the ward sister has been undermined. Their critical role as leaders of clinical care side-lined in favour of an office-based existence revolving around ticking boxes.
Is it any wonder that so few nurses now aspire to be ward sisters and those who take up the challenge end up frustrated in their roles?
Over many years the critical role of the sister has been downgraded and their position in the hierarchy means that no one listens to their concerns.
In February in his landmark report Robert Francis highlighted what many nurses already knew; that ward sisters are pivotal to providing effective care. His recommendation for supervisory roles for ward sister which would allow them to get out of the office and lead their teams was widely welcomed.
My concern is that failing to make this recommendation mandatory and leaving this to local decision makers will perpetuate the status quo. Trusts with vision will develop supervisory roles and others will take the risk and continue to use their ward leaders as a flexible workforce.
For many years there has been a lack of investment in clinical nursing and clinical leadership. Senior nurses took their eye off the ball and as a profession we have obsessed about what nurses could become rather than the how nurses could continue to provide compassionate care in a changing health economy.
Robert Francis has shone a light on the immense pressures nurses are under and the need for clinical leadership has never been so great.
I sincerely hope trusts have at last woken up to the value of the ward sister role and will invest in it so nurses can proactively lead clinical care rather than react to it.
It is happening in some trusts. Let’s hope good practice spreads to all.