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Nursing must not carry the can for Mid Staffs

  • Comments (32)

While there can be few groups within the NHS looking forward to the Francis report into Mid Staffordshire Trust, the nursing profession appears to have most to fear. Large swathes of the general media already seem to assume that the largest proportion of blame rests with nurses.

They will almost certainly report numerous distressing stories of neglect and appalling practice among nurses at the hospital. They will also doubtless demand major changes to nurse education, question once more the move to degree-only entry, and accuse nurses of becoming at best box-ticking robots and at worst cruel sadists who cannot be bothered to cross a ward to help a patient in distress.

There is, of course, no excuse for what happened in Stafford, and it is crucial that lessons are learned so it can never be repeated. And yes, some nurses are individually culpable. But that is far from the whole story – other individuals and professions played their part in these tragic events, so why is nursing being singled out for such vilification? Why is there an assumption that nursing is broken and that all the failings can be laid at its door?

The Daily Telegraph has been particularly keen to accuse the profession, yet its sister paper the Sunday Telegraph reported that complaints had been received about 41 doctors and ‘at least’ 29 nurses at the trust. Given the ratio of doctors to nurses, it would be reasonable to assume that by far the greater proportion of complaints would be about nurses, yet I don’t hear doctors being attacked so vociferously.

Nursing cannot be allowed to carry the can for all the wrongs at Mid Staffordshire. Yes, it must hold up its hands and accept its share of the blame, but other professions must do the same. Nurses cannot fail so spectacularly in a vacuum – it takes an entire hospital and numerous failures in regulatory systems to allow up to 1,200 people to die unnecessarily.

If the NHS is to learn from Mid Staffordshire, the Francis report must be considered in an even-handed manner with a willingness to make changes wherever they are needed rather than focusing on one profession.

And the government must be willing to take a constructive approach to addressing any resource issues that this raises. Anything less is unfair to the nursing profession and, more importantly, an insult to the people who died needlessly and the families they left behind.

  • Comments (32)

Readers' comments (32)

  • tinkerbell

    whilst i understand that probably someone thought that nurses needed to have it 'spelt out' for them, the 6 c's, and whilst the appalling neglect of mid staffs and elsewhere can never be excused, i think that the majority of nurses go about being the 6 c's without ticking boxes off in their head as they are doing it but just doing what needs to be done to alleviate anothers distress within the limited resources available to them, like enough hands and feet on the frontline.

    I don't need a certificate after every patient encounter to say i achieved this.

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  • Anonymous

    Nothing surprises me, if nurses can't be kind to each other where b*t*hing harassment and bullying are rife, what chance have patients got...staff cry more than the patients

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  • Anonymous

    tinkerbell | 19-Jan-2013 1:04 pm

    tick boxes in the head sounds a very dangerous condition to be avoided at all costs. Is it listed in the new DSM-V shortly due for publication?

    it seems one could be so preoccupied, obsessed, concerned and compulsive about meeting the six 'C's in all we do we may no longer be able to focus on the actual tasks in hand.

    Instead of virtual tick boxes in the head an actual list of the six 'Cs' would be a safer option for each patient encounter which we could hand in at the end of each shift. A new dedicated care maker/senior manager could be employed to check these after hours for which s/he would obviously need overtime pay. Alternatively nurses could feed them into a computer data base at the end of each shift to be electronically checked which might save costs. It goes without saying that nobody would be allowed to leave the building without having all of their boxes ticked!

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  • Sadly, as we have clearly witnessed, when you create institutions such as the NHS, Houses of Parliament, Schools, Police and so on, your staff WILL, insiduosly, become 'Institutionalised' too, and once this happens, the whole system will undoubtedly deteriorate as a result

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  • Anonymous

    I am proud to be a nurse, I was proud of my training and the very high standard of care I have offered all my patients over the last 20 years.

    All hard-working, caring nurses should feel proud of themselves, we are constantly knocked back and we must not let this destroy our lives.

    Good luck to everyone getting to work in this weather, where are the reindeer when you need them.

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  • Anonymous

    Mid Staffs has been made a scapegoat by the media for the failings of other Trusts and PCT's. Despite major improvements staff are still under constant scruitiny and understanably are very concerned regarding the future pf the hospital. Julie Bailey 'Cure the NHS' will not be satified until the hospital is closed and she gets her OBE. Julie Baliey is not so squeaky clean and the media should investigate her.
    I live and work in Stafford and we need to fight to keep services local.

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  • Anonymous

    Jenny Jones I think you talk a lot of sense. I have read the reports already published by Francis and was appalled at the serious mismanagement that went on at Mid Staffs. I think it is important to be clear about cause and effect. Decisions taken by senior management at Mid Staffs led to a gross distortion of the nursing skill mix (reduced to approximately 40% registered and 60% un-registered nurses) and significant shortfalls in nurse staffing levels. The effect of this was to stretch nurses to their limits and render it impossible for them to deliver acceptable levels of care.
    The current situation reminds me of the story about the King's new clothes: when will the truth of the situation be acknowledged? Patients, relatives and nurses on the frontline see that truth every day - there are frequently simply not enough nurses around to deliver high quality care.
    Rather than taking strike action (which would only result in more opportunities for the media and managers to lambast the nursing profession) I think we should have a series of "work ins" - days where all nursing staff turn up to work, wether rostered to do so or not. Those not rostered would not be paid for the extra days work of course - but then if you went on strike for a day you would lose a days pay. The effect of these "work in" days should be measured (tasks completed/not completed, pressure ulcers, falls, patient and visitor feedback, staff feedback etc), to show what effect boosting nursing numbers has on the quality of care delievered. Similar measurements could also be carried out on the days when staffing levels are "normal" for that ward/nursing environment.

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  • Anonymous

    Technically, Robert Francis's first, independent inquiry has already judged the appallingly substandard care that some patients at Stafford Hospital received. This public inquiry is into the roles of the regulatory, commissioning and supervising organisations who should have spotted the failings sooner - eg the PCTs who commissioned services and Monitor, who authorised the hospital's FT application when poor care was happening. Even so, given the context of the public inquiry, the media surely won't need an invitation to criticise nurses yet again.

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  • Anonymous

    Nursing care is not about caring for critical ill patient in the ITU, it is the care given to patients who cannot carried out the daily tasks because of their illness. It is in this area Nurses are blamed for failing to provide. Why are such basic care not delivered by nurses or is it nurses need a special qualification to do these tasks?
    There are good nurses and likewise there are bad nurses, therefore the blame cames down to management and not every all nurses should be blamed.
    I am a ward Sister and always help out when needed and appreciate the nurses who work hard.

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  • Anonymous

    anon 4.23 - do you have any 'bad' nurses on your ward? you say you help out when needed, what about when not needed?

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