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'Look beyond the headlines for real Francis response'

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If you have ever received a gift where the wrapping felt more impressive than the contents of the parcel, you may sympathise with some of the opinions expressed by nurses about the government’s full response to Francis last week.

Don’t get me wrong. I think there’s a lot of positive stuff in the response. And as Robert Francis QC himself told our reporter Shaun Lintern last week, he does believe that the recommendations the government has taken on board and committed to will make the healthcare system safer for patients - which is the ultimate aim.

But the headlines don’t always tell the full picture, and we should encourage the government - and the profession - to look deeper.

Saying that it has taken on board all but nine recommendations is not quite an accurate representation of what has happened. In fact, 57 have been accepted “in principle” and 20 “in part”. And some of its response requires a little more detail.

So what do we like? Well anyone who’s been calling for safe staffing levels will be pleased with the idea of regularly publishing these for all to see, as we revealed exclusively in 13 November issue.

The timing of the chief nursing officer for England’s summit couldn’t be better in gathering together senior nurses to discuss how to prevent another Mid Staffs

Since Mr Francis recommended using NICE guidance to set staffing levels, there has been some scepticism about how this would work, but it seems to be shaping up to be more specific and broader than some pundits (and even we) thought. The first guideline will focus on adult inpatient wards. Taken area by area, it could help to indicate the right number of nurses to match patient acuity and ensure those with complex needs receive the right nursing care.

We’d have liked to have seen the government enforcing the use of named nurses and giving ward sisters mandatory supervisory status rather than just encouraging this. And regulating healthcare assistants would have made the biggest difference to standards of care. Virtually everyone who touches patients is regulated, except those who often provide the most hands-on care.

This response encourages nurses to take up good ideas, but it leaves much of the responsibility for doing so to the profession. So the timing of the chief nursing officer for England’s summit this week couldn’t be better in gathering together senior nurses to discuss how to prevent another Mid Staffs. It will be interesting to hear their debate. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure history is not repeated. All staff must ensure Francis isn’t another report consigned to history, but the catalyst for a better NHS.

● Visit for live streaming from the CNO Summit and follow the event on Twitter using #CNOSummit

Jenni Middleton, editor Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed

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