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Anne Milton pledges to shelter frontline nurses


Health minister Anne Milton has pledged to protect frontline nurses and give them more control over decisions about patient care.

In her first interview with Nursing Times since becoming a health minister, Ms Milton acknowledged the pressures faced by nurses in the current economic climate but said the coalition government was committed to ensuring the frontline workforce stayed “intact”.

“This is a very difficult time for nurses and I hugely appreciate how it feels trying to deliver care against this very grim economic background,” the former nurse said. “There has been a huge rise in bureaucrats in the NHS and we want to protect frontline jobs. But I know nurses feel very anxious.”

She offered her support for clinical nurse specialists, whose roles have come under increased scrutiny over recent months as managers seek to cut costs. Ms Milton said clinical nurse specialists “improve quality and standards and offer good value for money”.

“But what is important, particularly in light of the financial constraints, is that they demonstrate this to those who are commissioning services and planning the workforce.”

Handing back decision making power to clinical staff has been the cornerstone of health secretary Andrew Lansley’s plans for reforming the NHS.

Ms Milton said the government is currently reviewing evidence on the state of the nursing profession to help inform a fresh consultation on its future. She said the former government’s Prime Minister’s Commission on Nursing and Midwifery report was in the “melting pot” of evidence being looked at.

Ms Milton had previously criticised the commission’s report, saying the proposed introduction of a “pledge” for nurses was an “insult”.

She said last week: “What is overriding is that nurses would like to have more control over decisions, and more opportunity to make decisions about patient care.

“Nurses feel as though they are always being told what to do by managers. They want to see their own clinical judgement being allowed to flourish.”


Readers' comments (4)

  • No we want safe staffing levels!!!!! Until we get that, all will fail.

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  • Instead of employing upto 7 modern matrons & 4 bed managers plus their individual support staff, along with individual ward managers and sisters/charge nurses for 6 wards, cut these jobs to a minimum and give back the cost towards nursing staff who are at the bedside. Instead of freezing bank shift backfill, come out of those offices and work towards your right to remain competent to stay on the NMC register.

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  • I agree, staffing seems to be the shortfall of everything for me

    If each ward could be guaranteed sufficient staff there is bound to be an improvement in patient flow because there would be enough staff to get things organised

    * fall and pressure sore incidence would be reduced

    *infection control would be improved

    *patient nutrition would be improved

    *communication would improve and complaints would be reduced

    these factors would all reduce bed stay, save money, but more importantly be a direct benefit to the patient. It seems to me that recently the NHS is keen to find ways of cutting costs that is of no direct benefit to the people it is supposed to serve - inparticular agency staffing cuts which are an unfortunate necessity at present.

    I think as time goes on and staffing becomes more organised and sufficient, you will find that nurses are then happy to take on control of the ward, for individuals to take on a 'link role' for different areas and monitor the situation independently, less of a need for matrons and managers on higher salerys.

    Its all well and good saying you want individual wards and nurses to take over control again, but until you add the extra support in staff, you are just adding further pressure to our difficult job and you will find more people either becoming sick, or leaving the profession altogether!

    Why dont the matrons/managers ever come to support the short staffed ward, they are trained nurses after all, even an hour or two would help. I am sick of being told you'll just have to manage, I'll relay that to my patients shall I, to the patient who cant feed themselves at lunch time because Im busy feeding three other patients....youll just have to manage...

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  • I agree wards need to be staffed in line with what the ward manager deems a safe and appropriate skill mix in the establishment reflects the number and type of patient in a ward area. Some matrons and bed mangers are needed as they do lessen the work that previously the senior nurse on a ward had to do such as finding beds for admissions. With shorter days stay in hospital, to reduce re admission in many areas specilist nurses take on the role of intermeadiate support for patients recovery by doing nurse led clinics and using help lines to problem solve concerns by phone to avoid a re admission after discharge. It is very sad that nurses cannot appeciate the role everyone has in the patient journey and I feel very sad that some nurses seem to truly think other nurses with different roles sit in the office doing NOTHING . I fully understand and see how busy ward staff are especially with the government increased audits and paper work put on them, which is why when a patient is discharged home with out a good package of follow up or plan of care or health promotion information I dont critise just pick up at the point the ward nurse has finished and help the patient and family move on with thier recovery. Its what I feel is team work is all about

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