NT: Free to Lead, Free to Care sounds like it will really empower ward sisters, but what does it actually mean for them?
RK: You have to not pre-judge the outcome, but one of the things we will be looking at is how to develop the ward sister of the future. We tend to get extremely good staff nurses and we do not give them any development other than what they receive along the way.
We need to start encouraging them form the start of their career to get back to a situation where you have junior ward sisters, as well as senior ward sisters, so that the junior is learning on the job. If this is the case, as you would expect, it would increase the number of ward sisters.
NT: What about funding? Where will the money come from, and will it be made available to trusts to allow this to happen?
RK: A lot of the things that are being recommended in the report do not have a price tag attached to them, for example making sure that wards have protected meal times and protected cleaning times. But, some do and the NHS and the trusts themselves will fund these.
As far as uniforms are concerned, they (trusts) are already providing uniforms, but if they (government) introduce a single purchasing system you should be able to actually free up money. In terms of trusts being responsible for laundry, if this is found to be possible it will be met by the budgets that is given to the NHS trusts, but if you need the budget expended it would be a decision the minister has to take
NT: A new training programme for ward sisters will be introduced, why is this, who will fund it and what will it be? If you do the training do you automatically become a band seven nurses or automatically become a ward sister?
RK: We think this is going to be part and parcel of the way we will be developing a post- registration framework. England has already got one, and we are not going to be following it. We will be starting to develop people on their career options from the first point of employment.
No you will not automatically become a band seven. If you think it, it is all part of the way we are looking to the development of ward sisters for the future. When they have got all of their competencies they will be able to apply for a ward sisters place when they become available.
Like in the police force you will go through the training to become a sergeant but it does not automatically mean you will become a sergeant. Pre-registration training in funded in Wales by the Assembly, but post-registration goes to the trusts, so it is up to trusts to manage their post-registration budgets, but now one of the requirements will be that they know they will have to train ward sisters, which will be developed in house with higher education institutions.
NT: The implementation group will come up with a new nation dress code which will include a new uniform by the end of the year. Free to Lead, Free to Care talks about ‘smart scrubs’, what is this and why do you need a new uniform?
RK: One of the things we were thinking about and one of the problems we have got is do people know who is the sister, who is the staff nurse, and who is the auxiliary and the minister is saying you will be clear as to who is who. It is too early to say what the uniform will be, but one of the concerns is about the practical parameters. Will it be trousers or top, will it be easy to launder?
Then there is the issue of whether it will be flattering. How do they remove their tops over their heads especially if their tops are contaminated, we do not want them bringing them over their heads, so will they open from the side? A lot of people are saying they want a dress but we have to decide if this will de appropriate if you are in a certain area, so they might be an approved dress for certain places.
Interview with Louise Tweddell