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Honesty laws and HCA regulation would make NHS safer, say nurses


Calls for a legally-enforced “duty of candour” to be introduced in the NHS in order to encourage and protect whistleblowers have been overwhelmingly welcomed by nurses.

The majority of nurses also believe that regulating healthcare support workers – also known as healthcare assistants – would significantly benefit patient care.

A Nursing Times survey of just under 3,000 nurses has revealed the first snapshot of how the profession views the recommendations made in Robert Francis QC’s seminal report since it was published on 6 February.

An overwhelming majority, 95%, of survey respondents welcomed one of the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry report’s key recommendations to introduce mandatory regulation for healthcare assistants, but around 94% said it should have also recommended regulation for managers.

The majority of nurses thought HCA regulation would be of significant benefit to patient care and 73% said it would be of “great benefit” to nurses in terms of improving their working day.

A further three-quarters of respondents also said it was “very important” for staff to wear badges and uniforms that clearly distinguished between HCAs and registered nurses.

Another major recommendation in the report surrounded the need for a legal “duty of candour” to encourage and protect staff to raise concerns over patient safety.

The survey indicated that 92% of nurses either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with the idea that new laws should require all NHS staff and directors to be open and honest when mistakes occurred.

Around 80% of respondents backed the introduction of specially trained “older person’s nurses”, agreeing that they would improve care for older patients.

More popular still was the idea of assigning patients a “key nurse” on each shift to coordinate their care – though 70% thought it would be “difficult” or “very difficult” to implement in practice.  

Meanwhile, just over half of respondents, 55%, said they would like to see the Royal College of Nursing separate its role as a trade union and a professional organisation. The Francis report highlighted what it described as an “inherent conflict” between the RCN’s dual functions.

Most nurses, 77%, also liked the idea that potential nursing students should complete three months or more work experience before starting their course.

  • Full results from the survey will be published soon.

Readers' comments (11)

  • Just in case of confusion in comment above, the registered midwife was struck off for abuse of her patient, not because of working as a HCA.

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