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.