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Exclusive: Hospital trust seeking Magnet status to prove nursing quality


A UK hospital trust is taking steps towards becoming the only organisation in the country with accreditation for nursing excellence from an international scheme founded in the US.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been working for 18 months on its application for Magnet status, which is granted by the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center, an affiliate of the American Nurses Association.

“There was a feeling among nurses that they wanted Oxford back on the map as a leading place for nursing”

Dickon Weir-Hughes

To achieve accreditation, an organisation has to demonstrate it is meeting a series of standards which include those on national safe staffing policies, minimum training levels and around nurse-sensitive clinical indicator data.

The scheme has in other countries improved nurse recruitment and retention at accredited organisations, with a recent study also suggesting Magnet hospitals were associated with lower mortality rates after surgery.

Oxford University Hospitals’ progress has attracted interest from around 10 other UK organisations, including Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

It led to the creation of the UK Magnet Alliance earlier this year, a group to support others considering Magnet accreditation.

“When you read those standards, there is nothing a good hospital shouldn’t be doing already”

Dickon Weir-Hughes

Oxford University Hospitals is looking at changes it can make to improve nurse education and training as part of its application, which could take up to eight years to complete.

To meet the requirement for all band 7 and above nurses to have degrees, it will pay for additional training courses for relevant staff to “top up”.

The trust will also need to demonstrate year-on-year increases in the numbers of nurses with certification in areas of clinical specialities, as well as improvements in staff satisfaction surveys – which it has already seen.

It expects these standards to be supported by revalidation, the new system of registration renewal being brought in the by the Nursing and Midwifery Council from April, which requires minimum levels of continuing professional development and mandatory discussion of reflective practice.

Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes, a former director of nursing and NMC chief executive, is co-ordinating the Magnet programme at Oxford University Hospitals.

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Rochdale Infirmary

He said the trust began its application because nurses remembered “leading the way” in nursing during the 1990s, adding: “They had unique work at Oxford, particularly in care of the elderly and a system of nursing called primary nursing.

“There was a feeling among nurses that had been around a bit longer that they wanted Oxford back on the map as a leading place for nursing,” he said. “But they didn’t want it just as hearsay they wanted to be able to demonstrate it.”

Only around 6% of hospitals in the US have so far achieved Magnet status. Rochdale Infirmary in Lancashire is the only UK hospital to have previously been accredited. However, after achieving the status in 2002, it later withdrew from the programme following a trust merger.

Professor Weir-Hughes said he believed many trusts in the UK were put-off by the Magnet scheme because it was viewed as an American system that was not needed in the UK, which he said was “short-sighted”.

Dickon Weir Hughes1

Dickon Weir-Hughes

Meanwhile, some viewed the lengthy accreditation process as being “too difficult” but, “when you read those standards, there is nothing a good hospital shouldn’t be doing already,” he said.

There was also some resistance from those who believed standards of nursing care should focus on a multi-disciplinary team, he said.

However, he did acknowledge the “overwhelming” volume of change in the NHS was problematic for organisations trying to focus on long-term developmental initiatives.



Readers' comments (9)

  • For crying out loud the nhs should be using international and European quality standards right throughout the organisation which involves regular input from every single individual employed to work in it. This enables individuals to take responsibility for aiming towards standards of excellence in their own work and to openly and freely communicate with others at all levels about the care they deliver and their concerns for each and every patient and the adequacy of their available resources at personal and wider level. This does not currently appear to be happening in a highly fragmented nhs where everybody seems to be jealously guarding their own corner irrespective of the effects this has on patients and the quality of care or respect for their colleagues.

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  • Does he really think everything is wonderful in the US healthcare system?

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  • I have been trying to get an e mail address set up at the Trust where I am a Bank Nurse. 8 months on and still no luck. I want to do my e learning at home, not just the mandatory work but CPD learning that will got towards my revalidation. I am told this is not possible and any work I do should be accommodated in work time. This is not possible as staffing levels wont allow. Go to the library they say, why should I when it can take half an hour just to park on top of travelling to and from the hospital on days off. If the NMC was genuinely serious about the revalidation process and ongoing Nurse Education there should be a proper system in place throughout the NHS to accomodate those needs without individual Trusts having to source education from abroad.

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  • I wanted to do my own studies as I am quite intelligent and able to study without help, however, I can never get to do this in the work contracted hours as not enough staff on to let me off, besides I work extra for no pay as there are not enough staff. Also I am not a fool after paying NMC £120 and working for free, to then do extra studies on my own time. I do have a life outside of work, and that part of my life is very important to me.
    It is a shame Great Britian is not able to have intelligent people at the top in nursing so we don't have to believe the US always knows best to show us how.

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  • Why would we want to be using models of care based on failed American care systems and hidden denial -which don't solve anything but cause more reliance on their future use via anxious driven nurses and demands for reasonable floor level negotiations. First we had the lean nonsense and now this. Tell you what why don't we pay more American useless consultants such as the spleen American five we got here at the moment. Read the California Nurses Association and the Massachusetts Nurses Association take on all this. I believe a time of social unrest is coming and neoliberal DWH you and your government buddies are betraying British nurses and the public.

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  • May have no choice being 'Americanised' and Canadianised' if TTIP and CETO goes through and includes the NHS!

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  • I have worked in a hospital that was in the final process of achieving magnet status and i view it as good. The idea being to promote the best quality and standards of care for patients from the bottom up as opposed to the top down approach this country has. If you implent the changes that you (as a team) thought of and see the direct improvement of those changes this then in turn helps retention and staff enagagement something which is desperatley lacking within the NHS

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  • In my experience, good, compassionate nursing care is good compassionate nursing care in any language. No country or continent has the monopoly on best practice. Each country does some things well and could do better in other areas. Part of how the NHS and Nursing will become better is in not constantly looking inwards and making the same mistakes over and over again but by being open-minded, adopting best practices wherever they come from and integrating them into our local system. I have led a hospital to achieve Magnet status and the transformation amongst the nursing team and in our clinical outcomes and patient experience has been amazing both during the Magnet journey and since. When it comes down to it, patients will never refuse best care because the practice was adopted from another country; they just want and deserve the best. God on you Oxford for taking the leap. I hope that you succeed.

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  • Kathy don't put words in people's mouths this isn't about looking inwards so don't make generalised misleading assumptions. Yes we'd be better to look at Europe and Scandinavia than Magnet. Didn't one of the head guys training this stuff get the sack over in America? Sustainability is the part of the main issues. Magnet is criticised for drawing in the alleged best and situations reverting. As someone who is a senior figure are you sure all those under you were convinced? Please don't make sweeping statements about people who disagree. Clinical outcomes as commodity values of statistical worth are not necessarily authentic values.

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