Hospitals could be required to publish nurse staffing levels at least twice a year under plans set out in the chief nursing officers’ strategy.
The proposal is one of a raft of recommendations set out in Compassion in Practice which was launched by chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings and Department of Health director of nursing Viv Bennett today.
They also call for any proposed changes to skill mix to be discussed by the boards of NHS organisations and recommend the introduction of pre-registration nurse “apprenticeships”.
The strategy reveals univeristies will be required to recruit for values as well as academic achievement and proposes junior staff should be more involved in leadership and service improvement at the beginning of their careers.
Ms Cummings said: “The actions we are setting out – developed with nurses, midwives and care staff – can change the way we work, transform the care of our patients and ensure we deliver a culture of compassionate care.
“We must seize this opportunity to create a future where people are treated with compassion, dignity and respect by skilled staff who have the competence and time to care.”
Ms Cummings and Ms Bennett also recommend ward or community nurse and midwife leaders be made supervisory to “give them time to lead”. They call for all nurses to help make the case for supernumerary status by demonstrating the positive impact it can have on role modelling, staff supervision, clinical placements and communication with patients, families and carers.
They add: “We hope this will be accepted and built into all future workforce tools.”
The strategy also recommends a leadership programme that would result in a nationally recognised qualification covering change management and communication.
It commits the NHS Commissioning Board and the DH to developing evidence based staffing levels for nursing outside of an acute setting. The commissioning board will also develop a methodology which organisations can use to measure their culture.
Ms Bennett said: “Our aim is to maximize the contribution of all nurses, midwives and carers to improving the publics’ health by making every contact count for health and wellbeing.”
The strategy was developed to address concerns about declining quality of nursing care and follows a consultation with more than 9,000 nursing staff. It is based around the “6Cs” that Ms Cummings and Ms Bennett believe should underpin nursing: care, compassion, courage, communication, commitment and competence.
It suggests improvements in patient safety and experience can be driven by increased use of the patient safety thermometer and the friends and family test, where patients are asked if they would recommend a service.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We want to do all we can to support those who care for patients - and this new vision will help us do that. Nurses, midwives and care staff have one of the most demanding and sensitive roles in the NHS and social care, and they command our respect and support.”