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Nurses must feel free to 'challenge the status quo'

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Nurses must be feel freer to ‘challenge the status quo’, the health secretary Andy Burnham has said.

Mr Burnham said NHS staff satisfaction must be more systematically measured and compared across organisations. There needs to be more of a focus on staff satisfaction as an “early warning” sign of poor services, he said.

“I believe the service should publish comparative staff satisfaction data, acting as a helpful barometer and early warning system,” Mr Burnham said.

In a speech this morning at the think tank the King’s Fund, the health secretary said the proposal would also empower staff and lead to “more positive ways of working”.

“Whistleblowing can’t be the only route to flesh out poor practice,” he said. “Staff must be free to challenge the status quo.”

He also emphasised that patient experience would be given greater weight, announcing that the payment by results system through which primary care trusts pay acute trusts for the treatment they have given, would take into account patient satisfaction.

Mr Burnham said he wanted to see patient satisfaction measured in each hospital service. “A hospital can appear to be doing well, ticking all the right boxes but not good enough in the eyes of its local public,” he said.

In answer to a question from the union Unison, Mr Burnham said the NHS is the preferred provider of community services and services would only be put out to tender where NHS provision was deemed to be of poor quality and had not taken chances to improve. “This is fair to all. It means everyone knows where they stand.”

He said the health service needed to look at whether more services should be provided in the community, and said next year the DH would introduce a “best practice tariff” on a range of treatments as an incentive.

As widely trailed, Mr Burnham announced that within the next year he wanted to abolish GP practice boundaries to allow patients to choose any family doctor.

The health secretary said he wanted the NHS to have a new level of ambition for the next decade, to take the service “from good to great”. This meant ensuring the service is “people centred” and that quality is “at the heart of all it does”.

He said: “The time has come for us to set out a better way of pursuing reform in the NHS. Top down reform was right for its time but it can only go so far.”

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