Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust’s new nursing director has said he is adamant he “cannot let the past re-emerge” and will hold staff to account if they do not meet care standards.
A number of nurses have been suspended by the scandal hit trust in the past six months.
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Colin Ovington, who joined as nursing director at the beginning of June, told Nursing Times there had been a high number of suspensions, but said reports that this had been as high as 15 were wrong.
He said there had been several suspensions since his arrival. Some were because there was evidence that nurses had not met standards in the past, and others were due to more recent failures.
He said: “Where we challenge someone, that is done in a fair and open way. It is a fair blame approach, but I cannot allow the past [poor standards] to re‑emerge.”
Mr Ovington said the trust would continue to challenge nurses whose work fell short of the trust’s standards.
But he added the main reason for problems with nursing at the trust were poor leadership and senior management in the past.
The Francis inquiry into events at the trust was particularly critical of Jan Harry, the trust’s nursing director from February 1998 to July 2006.
Mr Ovington said the past problems at the trust “demonstrate that leadership is crucial and does have a major influence on an organisation”.
“Here, it had a very negative influence. The consequences have led to serious flaws in patient care and serious deficits in leadership through the hierarchy down to ward level.”
Several senior nurses have been appointed since the scandal emerged in March last year, and Mr Ovington is planning a programme of leadership training.
He said he was also planning to develop a nursing strategy that would make clear nurses’ role in the trust’s safety and quality priorities. It would also help improve nurses’ morale, he said, which was still poor.
Mr Ovington said: “This trust is desperately calling out for a nursing strategy to pull nurses back together and give them confidence.
“I hear stories every day that show morale is not what it should be, but I also find people who are really enthusiastic in the work that they do.”