The Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust produced many good recommendations (290 to be exact).
But anything that incredibly comprehensive report didn’t mention has become an excuse for people to hide behind.
Senior nurses have told me they’ve raised an issue with their boards, which they were told deserved no air time “because it wasn’t in Francis”.
Is there a danger that a good idea to improve safety or quality isn’t a good idea unless you can relate it back to Francis?
I’ve done it myself. Asked in a television interview whether student nurses should spend a year working as a healthcare assistant a few months ago, I answered: “Well, Francis didn’t recommend it.”
Of course, I think that particular idea is not well-founded, but maybe that’s not the point.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Robert Francis QC’s report is a thorough and fantastic frame of reference, but is there a danger that we dismiss issues that he didn’t seem to regard as relevant just because they weren’t what was behind the problems at Mid Staffs?
For example, senior nurses and managers have maintained that mandated staffing levels weren’t a good thing for nursing or care.
They would point to evidence given at Mid Staffs by the former chief nursing officer for England Dame Christine Beasley, who felt minimum numbers would “become the floor not the ceiling”.
And when the Francis report was published in February, his suggestion that National Institute for Health and Care Excellence tools be used to set staffing levels gave the government and those against the idea a reason to dismiss the evidence calling for a set ratio.
So the news that Francis seems to have strengthened his position on staffing levels, suggesting publicly last week that they should be considered an alarm bell to warn of poor care, is excellent for the Safe Staffing Alliance, the Nursing and Care Quality Forum, unions and other nurse researchers who applaud his call for a minimum number to provide safe care. Perhaps now the government will take notice?
We should all heed Francis’ words from last week, when he spoke about reporting on the evidence at the time and “only dealing with the events arising out of a particular hospital so the inquiry [which] for all its breadth, in the end had limitations”.
Because if health professionals limit their view to only the things Francis talked about, they are in danger of hitting the target but missing the point.
Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed