The Royal College of Nursing has described the government’s response to the Francis report as a series of “missed opportunities”.
It has criticised the government’s failure to support mandatory minimum staffing levels and the regulation of healthcare assistants and said there were “urgent questions” about plans to have student nurses working as healthcare assistants.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter described the inquiry by Robert Francis QC as “comprehensive” adding there “was a great deal to welcome” in his report.
Mr Carter said: “We welcome the commitment to look at staffing levels. However the reality is that nurses continue to work with up to 11 patients each in older people’s settings, and with even higher numbers in care homes.
“Simply leaving the setting of staffing levels to local discretion clearly isn’t working and the time has come for mandatory, legally enforceable safe staffing levels. It’s what patients need, deserve and increasingly will start to demand.”
He added: “The inquiry was also clear about the need for a register of all healthcare support workers. We are disappointed the government has missed an opportunity to enshrine this in law.
“We have a number of urgent questions about the suggestion that all student nurses should first spend a year working as a healthcare support worker,” he said. “Who will train, employ and monitor tens of thousands of these support workers?
“How can the government deliver this radical change to nurse training on a cost neutral basis? And how will we ensure that the supply of nurses does not become restricted?”
But Mr Carter added: “Despite some real reservations, we are committed to working with the government to ensure Robert Francis’ vision for a patient centred NHS becomes a reality.”
In his landmark report, Mr Francis described the RCN as being “ineffective both as a professional representative organisation and as a trade union” at Stafford Hospital.
He recommended the RCN split its joint responsibilities, but the union has rejected the idea.
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