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Nurses to be measured on the levels of compassion they show to patients

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How much compassion nurses show their patients is to be measured against new government benchmarks specifically targeted at the quality of nursing care.

A range of measures, to be introduced as a set of ‘metrics’, will be used to assess whether nurses are delivering care with compassion, as well as safely and effectively.

Nurses could see themselves rated on such things as good handwashing, patient nutrition, falls reduction, how well they inform patients on the progress of their treatment and how they minimise pain.

The proposals were announced last week by health secretary Alan Johnson at an NHS Confederation conference in Manchester.

‘Patients want to be kept well-informed by staff and treated with compassion and sensitivity,’ Mr Johnson said. ‘Measuring quality against indicators such as dignity, respect and communication will help [nurses] achieve this.’

The assessments will form part of a quality care framework, which will be included in junior health minister Lord Darzi’s NHS
Next Stage Review, which is due to be published at the end of this month.

Gail Adams, Unison’s head of nursing, said she could understand why some nurses might be sceptical about the measures but suggested they could be positive for staffing levels and morale.

‘At this moment, nursing is only measured on negatives – infection control and drug incidents – but this will measure the good things nurses do,’ she said. ‘It has an intrinsic benefit, in that you can quantify the nurse contribution, and because you will be able to quantify it you can show how much nurses contribute to the NHS.

‘It means you could argue for more nurses or more skill mix on wards,’ she added.

‘I can understand why some people would be sceptical but I would ask them to put it to one side and make this work for nursing.’

RCN general secretary Peter Carter also endorsed the plans, describing the new measures as ‘groundbreaking’.

‘It will be important for nurses to understand that the new measures are designed to improve performance rather than punish nurses for poor performance,’ he said.

Meanwhile, the college is due to launch its campaign on patient dignity this week.

In a separate drive on dignity, nurses in Wales will receive a card reaffirming principles on compassion and dignity, health minister for Wales Edwina Hart, said last week.

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