The health secretary has called on nurse leaders to thank their staff for their work under the current pressures faced by the NHS, but also warned of a tough winter ahead.
In his keynote speech at the CNO Summit in Manchester last week, Jeremy Hunt said he realised the NHS had been “under more pressure in the last few years, probably ever than in its history”.
“The coming winter is going to be, more challenging I think, than ever”
He attributed this pressure to the “triple whammy” of the financial difficulties caused by the economic crisis, the need for the NHS to respond the Francis report and an ageing population.
Mr Hunt said: “I wanted to thank you and I also wanted to ask you to thank your staff… for everything that they’re doing and to reflect the fact that we do understand and appreciate the huge amount of pressure that there is.”
The health secretary also went on to thank nurse leaders for their preparations for the coming winter. “It is going to be, more challenging I think, than ever,” he warned.
In addition, Mr Hunt set out “four pillars” that formed the government’s response to the Five-Year Forward View – the set of plans published by NHS England last month.
The first pillar, he said, was the need for the NHS to contribute to the country’s economic growth and help avoid another financial crisis.
“We have an opportunity for health to be a big contributor to economic growth through the life sciences, industry, through research and development,” he said, highlighting examples such as NHS involvement in new drug trials and the decoding of the human genome.
“If we look at the changes we’ve had since Francis, nursing has led the way in embracing a new culture”
Secondly, he called for new models of care and acknowledged that a “big push” was needed to increase the number of nurses working in community settings.
Mr Hunt said: “We need a different model of care that is based around keeping people healthy and happy at home, and trying to prevent the onset of illness and trying to prevent people developing long-term conditions.
“What we need to make [it] possible is more district nurses, more practice nurses, more community nurses. We need a big, big push on nursing in the community,” he said.
He identified the third pillar as “embracing” time-saving technology that would help nurses work in a more efficient way.
“Technology that means nurses have to spend less time filling out forms… is something that many trusts don’t give a priority to…and we need to change that,” he said.
Mr Hunt said the final pillar, changing NHS culture around compassion and safety, was the “most difficult and also the most important”.
He noted the work this year on increasing transparency on ward staffing levels and accountability through putting the names of clinicians above beds.
“Culture is something that nurses really understand and, if we look at the changes we’ve had since Francis, nursing has led the way in embracing a new culture,” he said.
“I believe the NHS is well on its way, to not only being the most compassionate, but to being the safest healthcare system in the world,” he told delegates..
Mr Hunt added that nursing was “absolutely critical to every single one of those four pillars”.