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OPINION

Jenny Winslade: 'Most of the change needed to boost care doesn't cost a penny'

  • 42 Comments

Ask people if they feel cared for to encourage a conversation with your patients, says Jenny Winslade

For years people have been saying that nurses aren’t what they used to be. They have degrees, they spend less time with patients and are “too posh to wash” patients.

I have never had much time for these arguments, not least because nursing has moved on in leaps and bounds since I started out in the 1980s. Back then, the doctor was always right and, unless you were a matron, you’d be lucky if you had any influence over how a patient should be cared for.

We now have the respect of patients as well as peers. This is not the same as saying that matters should stay as they are. Fundamental change is needed - and we know it.

“Most of the change needed is cultural. It doesn’t cost a penny and it relates directly to why we, as nurses, entered the profession in the first place. We care”

Reading the reports and media coverage on the distressing events at Mid Staffordshire, I feel deeply for those affected.
It is a physical feeling - one that I know others in my profession feel when somebody is hurting, physically or mentally. The feeling cannot be trained, it’s instinctive, almost primitive. It’s the kind of feeling you get when you see a little child sobbing because they have lost a parent in a crowd.

I am confident the Francis and Keogh reports are addressing major issues.

Most of the change needed is cultural. It doesn’t cost a penny and it relates directly to why we, as nurses, entered the profession in the first place. We care.

When I took my first steps on to a ward I knew all I wanted to do was care. The term can be over-used but it felt like a “calling”, something I was “born” to do. I’ve spoken to a lot of colleagues about this over the years and they feel it too.

The difficulty is that “caring for people” has not always been easy to measure. This is changing and patient experience is rapidly gaining importance. It is acknowledged you can have all the data and metrics in the land but they are no substitute for sitting down and listening to patients.

How could “never events” happen if we did? Can you imagine a surgeon removing the wrong finger if he or she had sat down and discussed with the patient which digit was to be removed? The same would be true of most surgery.

Lying at the heart of this is how NHS organisations act. My own - the NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group - commissions more than £1.1bn of healthcare. We started out by placing the patient at the centre of all we do. One reason for this is that a patient’s experience of care is subjective. It has to be. It’s unlikely that one person’s experience will be like any other’s.

People have to be treated kindly, with respect - which means being listened to. When they are, they will feel more valued. And, when people feel valued, they feel able to say more about themselves or their care.

We can start by asking the right questions and keeping it simple - no one wants to answer pages of complicated questions.If you ask people if they feel cared for, it will encourage a conversation. This may prompt further conversations about the their home life and if they feel they have the right support there.

As chief nurse, I am wedded to learning more about patients’ experiences. Care will not improve unless we listen. The act of listening - which means acting on what people say - will contribute to a fundamental shift in how the NHS treats people.

Nurses are privileged to experience the very best and worst moments of a patient’s life. It’s emotional and very satisfying.
Fundamentally, a hospital is a building with specialist equipment. If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of people who have experienced world-class care from dedicated nurses in Devon you will know it is the staff who make the difference.

Jenny Winslade is chief nurse at NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon CCG

  • 42 Comments

Readers' comments (42)

  • What a load of Mumbo-Jumbo.

    When did this grand "nurse" last work on an understaffed ward ?

    Does she really believe the nurses employed within her "trust" have time for sitting down and chatting to patients?

    The world must seem a grand place when viewed from a palatial executive office!

    I wonder how many of "her" nurses would even recognise Ms Winslade ?

    The real world is very different.

    Ms Winslade should try working on one of the understaffed wards she presides over.

    Try it Ms Winslade , just one shift a week and you will discover the reality of modern day professional nursing !

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  • Other than the wishful idea that her nurses have time to talk kindly to patients, i did not pick up on one solid cost neutral idea to "Boost care"!!! Lip service again.

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  • michael stone

    I think jenny is 100% right except for this:

    'I am confident the Francis and Keogh reports are addressing major issues.'

    Those reports raise the issues, but it is action, or often lack of action, afterwards where the 'addressing the issues' comes in.

    I've also pointed out that actually talking to each other - and I mean everyone - is crucial:

    http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f4085/rr/652862

    I've got 90 minutes of online time today, and not much to fill it with - I think I'll try to hunt down Jenny's e-mail contact address, and ask her something.

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  • tinkerbell

    Give nursing back to nurses. We are now a jack of all trades and master of none. Our role and remit has been completely blurred as we try to be everything to everyone. We are confused and lastminute.com.

    I overheard an anaesthetist introduce himself to a patient wih 'hello i'm just your anaesthetist, i'm just the person who is going to try and keep you alive during your operation'. It made me smile because I thought if I were his patient I would feel reassured by his introduction, cos I would think a least he knows his role and function.

    Nurses seem to no longer have one. W are being asked to do mission impossible with less and less staff. Give us the tools and we'll do the job but instead we are mostly running around chasing our tails in ever decreasing circles

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  • Re Tinkerbell's comment above

    "Nurses seem to no longer have one..."

    I don't have one, I have now acquired many of which I am very proud and am just waiting for recognition and diplomas in all of my acquired skills which I had never bargained for when I took up nursing and signed my contract of employment, and am now deciding where I should apply for my next job. Employers in other fields will surely be tripping over their feet to get somebody so multi-skilled! ??

    Sorry, I don't wish to sound boastful but they are far too many too list here but I am sure you can guess most - they include plumber, electrician, porter, nanny, counsellor, underdog manager, secretary, administrator, master box ticker, bottle washer, as well as some far more unusual ones such as very rarely when I am permitted time to practice during the course of a more than full time working week, part time nurse which I actually rather misguidedly thought I had been employed for, until I woke up and sadly realised I had been dreaming ......... :-(

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  • tinkerbell | 2-Oct-2013 11:18 am

    You are a legend.


    Anonymous | 2-Oct-2013 6:37 pm

    So are you.



    Jenny Winslade

    What a load of old b*****ks! The scary thing is that you think it's quite good, don't you?

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  • tinkerbell

    I use to take a pack of screwdrivers to work with me cos' the maintenance guys never had one. I had a flat head and a Phillips one so I could tackle any screw.

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  • michael stone

    Screws also have sizes, Tink. That's why the maintenance guys never had the right one to hand !

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  • tinkerbell

    michael stone | 3-Oct-2013 3:02 pm

    Mike, No they never had ANY screwdrivers, I had a pack of screwdrivers for every size screw. I bought a pack in poundland. They weren't happy when I presented them with a screwdriver that was just right for the job.

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  • Jenny I think you are stupid.
    Time spent by any nurse during working hours means he/she is getting paid, it does not matter if the nurse is talking to the patient of giving any other care.
    If a nurse want to carry on talking, then the sister will have to get someone else to get the work done.
    So really, what did you say does not cost a penny?


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