Frontline nurses should build relationships with patient and public involvement groups to try and prevent poor care and badly planned staff cuts, according to nursing leaders.
The call follows high profile cases where nursing staff shortages have been strongly linked to care failings – most publicly at Mid Staffordshire Foundation trust, and Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust.
Mid Staffordshire patient and public campaigners claimed to have a terrible relationship with the trust’s nurses who, they said, denied their concerns about poor patient care.
Royal College of Nursing head of policy development and implementation Howard Catton said nurses could benefit from establishing relationships with local NHS involvement groups.
They could exchange information about planned changes to services or staffing and, if necessary could co-ordinate their response, he said. This would be more effective at identifying potential problem areas.
Mr Catton told Nursing Times: “Closer collaboration between nurses and patient and public groups could be effective as part of early warning systems.”
Sally Brearley, a patient and public involvement expert, former nurse and visiting senior fellow at the National Nursing Research Unit at King’s College London, agreed. She said: “Staff and patients’ interests are aligned – they are about protecting the quality of services.
“They can share their different influence and use their particular mechanisms,” she told Nursing Times.
Ms Brearley, a lay member of the NHS national quality board, said: “We should not wait until they are talking about cutting services, but work together before that on improving care and establish a relationship.
“Nurses and patients can look at what is best for a particular pathway, for example, and having agreed that, make sure it is protected,” she added.
If, later, there are service change proposals the groups disagree with they could develop more formal links and question the plans, said Ms Brearly.