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'Let’s stop pointing the finger of blame and address the real problems'

  • Comments (18)

Since the government aimed its Francis report response firmly at nurses, with many of its promises focusing on “improving” nursing care, I have felt a sense of injustice that the wrong group is being targeted.

The assumption that nurses somehow lack compassion is completely unfounded. As someone recently tweeted to NT “No one goes in to nursing for the pension, we do it BECAUSE we’re compassionate.”

But the unfairness of it only really hit home when I received a phone call from my Mum at 11pm one evening last week.

She was on her third day on an acute surgical ward with advanced appendicitis.

Having not eaten for 38 hours due to her surgery being pushed back, and then pushed back some more, she was already distressed and disorientated. She had then been told that her surgery would not be going ahead that evening as planned and no one could tell her when it would be.

What’s more, she was being moved to another ward. She didn’t know why and she didn’t know where.

I later found out that the people making these decisions were on the ward at this time but instead of having the common courtesy to explain their rationale to patients face-to-face, it was left to the nursing staff who had just come on duty to deliver the bad news.

My Mum was angry, upset and in pain having refused her morphine because she wanted to be “with it” enough to find out what was going on. She’d barely slept and was clearly frightened about having surgery.

Throughout the entire phone call I could hear a call bell going off unanswered, eventually attended to by another patient.

And yet, through all this chaos, my Mum’s unrelenting praise for the nursing staff shone through.

Having never even heard of the 6Cs, and entirely unprompted, she used the word “compassionate” to describe her nurse, Vicky*.

I find it insulting and downright patronising that the suggestion is even being made that Vicky and her colleagues somehow lack compassion.

I met Vicky on my next visit and we discussed how her concerns for patient safety have increased as clearing beds has been prioritised. She told me the story we’ve heard time and time again about how her attempts to raise concerns have been ignored or dismissed with no changes being made.

The very fact that Vicky wishes to remain anonymous highlights that staff feel they aren’t safe to raise concerns. But for things to change, they need to not only be able to speak out, but to shout out when they are left in situations where they simply cannot do their jobs safely.

Vicky is the perfect example of why our Speak out Safely campaign is so important. Following Robert Francis’s recommendation, we want to make it a legal requirement for management to act on your concerns if patients are being put at risk.

Let’s stop pointing the finger of blame and address the real problems here. Show your trust that you are behind us, behind nurses like Vicky and behind a safer, more transparent NHS.

*pseudonym

  • Comments (18)

Readers' comments (18)

  • Being a band 5 I feel at various times that I am put in a difficult position. When complaints about how the lack of staff, resources or just plain ignorance from the managers when reports are made about poor quality of agency staff are made falls on deaf ears many of us have just given up.

    I have had patients crying on my arms saying that healthcare assistants are telling them to stop using the call bells and they are too frightened to do so. This is ridiculous. The fact that the HCA's agency or otherwise are wearing the same uniform as the nurses (blue scrubs) really makes the situation worse. When such complaints are made to the sisters responses such as (I QUOTE THIS) 'Well you know that by filling out this feedback form for the agency means this person will not be allowed to work back on the ward?'
    My response: Good.

    The next shift the person returned. RIDICULOUS. Through much lack of support nurses are being tarnished with a very tainted brush and this needs to stop.

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  • Anonymous

    We all wore the same uniform throughout the hospital and each profession was identified by a coloured square on our name badges. the patients knew who to talk to about which concerns and if they spoke to an HCA when it was a nursing or other issue they were unable to deal with outside their own remit they could be relied upon to pass the message on to the nurses on the ward and through them if necessary to whoever else was concerned. we communicated with the patients and with each other all of the time and it worked!

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  • Anonymous

    This article is a sad but an every day type of situation we have to put up with.
    A fellow nurse was so stressed out by the amount of work she had to do and with relatives waiting to speak to her. She put her patients first and told one of the relatives, 'sorry to keep you waiting but we are very short staff'. The relative waited a long time, and as she had to pay more for her parking reported the nurse. She told the sister that the nurse caused her distress.
    The nurse was called in the office and was warned.
    This country seem a very oppressive place for a nurse in these times.

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  • tinkerbell

    if this were a boxing tournament, then the government are going for a 'knock out'. They appear to care little that nurses and OUR NHS is on the ropes because they are preparing to move to the next level and loadsa money is involved for the shareholders.

    Things are going to get much worse with no prospect of improvement in the current climate. It's gone beyond a time when nurses should speak up, it's happened. Even so, please nurses across the land speak up, it's that bad now, what have you got to lose. Your jobs aren't safe anyway. At the moment all we're doing is rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.

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  • Anonymous

    Together with oppressivness we also have some low calibre of Nurses at the top end.
    Only this weekend a nurse was told by the nurse site manager to change her uniform in her lunch break because although clean it had some crease marks.
    This nurse is always smart, however on this one occasion she was creased up and got caught by this stupid site manager.
    The nurse was fuming went home to change her uniform and could not believe that instead of putting the patients first and helping out, this site manager was inspecting uniforms on a weekend when the whole hospital is short on doctors and nurses.
    We do have a massive problem with poor leadership.

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  • tinkerbell

    now we understand why the risk register to the reforms has been buried where no one will ever find it, maybe it will be unearthed in years to come in an archeological dig. Couldn't possibly be honest enough to let us know how 'unsafe' all these changes are going to be or we might have objected.

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous | 10-Jun-2013 8:01 am

    looks like the public need further education as well. the managers too to use some intelligence on how to suppor staff who are doing their best.

    couldn't we put out more leaflets, for example, explaining what we can and cannot do and how we try to meet everybody's expectations?

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous | 10-Jun-2013 8:26 am

    back in the 1970s doing a physio course our frumpy uniforms had to reach the tip of our tibial tubercles and were checked regularly!
    we were envious of the nurses who looked so attractive in their candy stripped dresses above their knees (at a time when minis and full skirts were in fashion), starched aprons, frilly caps and hats. by the time I switched courses we had moved on to polyester sacs like the one in the picture below.

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  • michael stone

    'She told me the story we’ve heard time and time again about how her attempts to raise concerns have been ignored or dismissed with no changes being made.

    The very fact that Vicky wishes to remain anonymous highlights that staff feel they aren’t safe to raise concerns. But for things to change, they need to not only be able to speak out, but to shout out when they are left in situations where they simply cannot do their jobs safely.'

    It ISN'T fundamentally about 'are nurses caring' - it is about being able to raise concerns without being 'bullied' or ignored. 'Raising concerns' all too often just does not work in the NHS: this is true whether concerns are raised by nurses, doctors, patients, relatives, etc.

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  • Anonymous

    gossip seems rife in the NHS, you speak to your manager about something you feel affects patient care and you become the snitch, the bully, the sneaky little brown-nose. it's cruel, spiteful and does nothing to improve the situation for either patients or staff.

    until bullying, backbiting, malicious gossip and pathetic attempts to ostracise each other is tackled head-on and dealt with correctly then nothing will ever change.

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