Robert Francis QC is not a man to pull his punches and in an interview with Nursing Times this week explains why he thinks nursing needs to take his report on Mid Staffordshire more “seriously”.
His views are likely to ruffle feathers, especially among those charged with representing the profession. However, his beef is not with individual nurses, many of whom he says “get the point”. Rather, he feels nursing as a whole needs to “strengthen its voice” - something that it has almost certainly needed to do for a while.
Like Mr Francis, I absolutely believe most nurses do “get the point”. For example, last month I listened to a debate at RCN Congress where nurses discussed how they could show the public they cared in the wake of the barrage of negative media reports that have dogged nursing in recent times.
A clearly emotional Kathy Moore, from the RCN’s East Dorset branch, said: “Rightly these issues have been publicised and should not be hidden away. We must do something now and we must show the public we really do care.”
Ms Moore admitted she did not necessarily have the answer on how to achieve this, but maybe others do?
On May Day I listened to the director of the National Nursing Research Unit, Jill Maben, give a fascinating lecture on nursing and compassion, which inevitably touched on Mid Staffordshire.
Nurses continue to work in exceptionally challenging physical and emotional environments often without adequate support and safeguards
Professor Maben admitted that she had temporarily given up nursing herself after being left alone to deal with a violent and confused male patient in a hospital ward, not long after qualifying.
She also talked at length about how research showed that where nurse wellbeing was supported, better patient outcomes resulted.
Where wards and teams are continually understaffed and under pressure, nurses’ ability to care becomes eroded - not because they lack compassion but because they are sometimes too exhausted even to smile, Professor Maben said.
And, as we reported last month, research in the US has shown that hospitals certified as nurse-friendly by the American Nurses Association - so-called “Magnet” hospitals - have better patient outcomes than other hospitals.
The evidence is mounting, but UK nurses continue to work in exceptionally challenging physical and emotional environments often without adequate support and safeguards.
The message seems simple enough to me. Show compassion to nurses and they will show compassion to patients.
Steve Ford, news editor
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @SteveJFord
● Jenni Middleton is on holiday