The former nurse who is now chair of Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust has said the care scandal at the trust should be a “warning bell” to nurse leaders.
Sir Stephen Moss worked in the NHS for 40 years as a nurse and later director of nursing and chief executive at the Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham.
The report of the inquiry by Robert Francis QC, published last week, said sustained low nurse numbers, particularly in emergency services, were a significant cause of poor care.
The report also highlighted further cases of poor and absent fundamental nursing care Mid Staffs. They were exacerbated by a change in the way wards were organised at the trust, led by a previous nursing director. Several wards were combined into what were called “clinical floors”.
Sir Stephen told Nursing Times the trust had increased significantly increased nurse numbers in recent months and was now close to its target.
He said: “We have had several attempts during the course of my career to get the fundamentals of care right.
“What has happened at Stafford has to be a wake up call for the whole NHS that it’s unacceptable not to care for patients in the way we would want our families cared for.”
Sir Stephen said senior nurses had to make clear their top priority was good care.
He said: “It is about getting leadership right, and what our ward managers expect our staff to deliver.
“We then expect nurses to speak out when their ability to deliver those standards are compromised.”
The Francis report suggests cost-cutting was part of the reason for understaffing.
Sir Stephen accepted senior nurses were likely to have to look at extensive cost cutting measures now and in the near future, because of expected NHS investment cuts.
He said: “The Stafford situation will hopefully sound warning bells to my nursing manager colleagues around the country about the price that can be paid if you don’t get the quality of care right, and you shift your focus away from what the hospital is there to do, which is to deliver good quality care.”
Separately, the trust has talked to the Nursing and Midwifery Council about the possibility of bringing fitness to practice cases against nurses.
Sir Stephen said the trust planned to “forensically review what the report says”.
“Clearly where we can identify where individual nurses have failed act or behave in an appropriate manner, we will look at what action we need to take and where it’s appropriate we will refer them to the NMC.
“The vast majority of our nurses are working incredibly hard, are very loyal to the trust and want to make things better.
“We are talking about a handful of people who are left who have to be held to account.”