Can you hear that? It’s the collective intake of breath of the healthcare world before March hits us.
If the 2012 Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire - followed by the reviews of Messrs Berwick and Keogh - felt like an onslaught, just wait for what this March will bring.
Coming hot on the heels of Sir Robert Francis QC’s Freedom to Speak Up review on whistleblowing, in the first week of March, we expect the Kirkup review to reveal what led to the avoidable deaths of babies at Morecambe Bay. The trust is now in the midst of an improvement project, and its leadership team - including newish nursing director Sue Smith - is determined that the traumas are not repeated. The review will be important for all healthcare staff, not just midwives and paediatric nursing staff.
“The review will be important for all healthcare staff, not just midwives and paediatric nursing staff”
Coming a few weeks before an election, the findings will be amplified by the political parties, who will blame each other for what happened, and claim that it didn’t and couldn’t happen on their watch. We hope it becomes less about point scoring and genuinely leads to a greater understanding of how to improve safety.
Guidance on the Duty of Candour, due a week or so later, will reinforce the need to honestly appraise and address safety concerns. Eight healthcare regulators, including the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the General Medical Council, will set out a professional duty of candour for health professionals.
“The guidance will focus on being honest with patients when things go wrong with their care”
The guidance will focus on being honest with patients when things go wrong with their care, and promote a culture in which nurses and their colleagues learn from their mistakes.
Nursing Times’ Speak Out Safely campaign aims to protect staff who raise concerns. We are a strong advocate of this cultural shift and of the duty of candour being a part of practice - honesty is always the best policy. Had such a culture and such a duty existed at Morecambe Bay, things could have turned out very differently.
“Honesty is always the best policy”
Finally, in March, we also expect Lord Willis’s Shape of Caring report on nurses’ training. We hope it promotes a culture in which nurses feel free to speak up, raise concerns and are actively listened to. However fantastic the training of nurses is, they are only as good as the cultures they work in. Those, too, need to improve.
Jenni Middleton, editor
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