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'The government's response has undermined the important role nurses play'


So the headline news today is that nursing and training of nurses is to blame for what happened at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

That is what the public will be taking away from the government response to Francis.

Six weeks in the making, and all this response seems to have done is tinker around at the edges instead of giving us some things that would really make a difference to the nursing profession.

Where is the commitment to really making ward sisters supervisory? Hospitals will be given action plans for senior nurses to fulfill their supervisory role but how will  that release the time for them to do this. There is the rejection of the older person’s nurse and no mention of Francis’s proposed role of key nurses?

The emphasis on rounding pleases the crowd but how it will work on a day to day basis is unclear. It’s more work for the daily shift without giving the increase in communication and teamwork envisaged by Mr Francis.

The things that will hugely improve the standards of care being offered in hospitals will of course take resource, money and commitment.

Far, far easier to appease the public who believe that nurses are bereft of compassion by telling them that now universities will only be recruiting student nurses who have proved they are caring and prepared to take people to the toilet and help them have a drink.

But all of us know that universities have been doing that – and doing it very well – for years. Their recruitment and selection panels involve academics and qualified nurses and often patients, patient groups, all of whom are skilled can identify those nurses who demonstrate compassion.

Students are still required to spend 50% of their time on placement. All this is serving to do is reignite the “too clever to care” “too posh to wash” debate. And that’s not helpful.

If we are sick, of course we all want to be looked after by a compassionate nurse, but a nurse that doesn’t have the skills to understand what is going on with their patient can kill them. Competence is just as important as compassion, in fact more important. It may not be fashionable to say it, but it is.

And if unregulated healthcare assistants providing care was a problem then surely the last thing we need is more unregulated staff providing essential care?

By focusing on the fact that all that is needed is a kind word and a smile, the government is undermining the important role nurses play in patient care.

So this constant bashing of student training needs to stop. The public, the media and government need to understand that what makes a nurse uncaring is not inadequate training or poor selection but shift after shift on an under-resourced ward or unit, fatigued and stressed out by having too many patients to look after.

Better to look closer at minimum staffing levels to ensure there are more nurses to provide the care. After all no amount of training can enable a nurse to be able to take two patients to the toilets at once, while feeding another, and helping someone else to have a drink. While another patient calls out for pain relief. Well can it?

Follow our live coverage of the government’s response to the Francis report during the day


Readers' comments (5)

  • michael stone

    I sort of agree with you, Jenny.

    I definitely have an issue with things like the 6 Cs, which appear to be all about 'staff attitude as the problem', when there ALSO has to be 'the right enviroment to work in'.

    It is easy for goverments to say 'attitude' must improve, because that shouldn't cost anything - but when staff say 'we DO NOT HAVE THE TIME TO 'SHOW COMPASSION' BECAUSE THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH OF US !!!', addressing that would cost money: and the goverment tends to go very quiet, about that issue !

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  • I agree with the above comments and that it's easy for those directing from their ivory towers on how things should be done, irrespective whether it's right or not.

    Someone nailed it on the head saying "compassion has been beaten out of caring staff" and on reflection from what I've seen some students, newly qualified and experienced staff left due to the relentless pressures and persistent demoralizing attacks. It affects everyone's physical, emotional and spiritual well being and makes it very difficult to continue and deliver excellent care that we want to.

    There's plenty of evidence that everybody needs to address this head on, not just nurses, HCAs or students. It will cost a fortune, financially and culturally, to make the changes needed.

    How many tasks can one person be expected to take on at any moment in time. Who deserves more pay? Those directly saving and improving people's lives or those who cripple and bully others to get things done.
    We all need care + compassion.

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  • michael stone

    Hi Andy - that someone was possibly me ?, as I wrote in one of these discussions:

    'There are questions, about whether there is something about the systemic factors in bad hospitals, that 'beats the caring out of' nurses - that is more to do with the 'bullying whistleblowers/fuss raisers' issue.'

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  • The real reason that the government are focusing on nursing is that nurses are a "soft target". That's it!

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  • Divide and break up that is the order of the day.
    Nurse training has always been fine, Nurse selection I don't see problems. Do you honestly think that the selectors can read the hearts of these recruits. We are not living in Heaven, so there will always be the bad slipping through the net in any profesion as we live in a world that seems to get more uncaring by the day. It is how well the problem nurse is dealt with. I am fed up with a blanket approach when a nurse does wrong.
    Good management will be able to deal fairly and effectively with these problems.
    What about the new Spanish nurses that are coming here, what sort of recruitment requirements have they to ensure we get only the best from Spain.
    We have had the West Indians, I'm one. We have had the Chinese and Indians to name a few.
    When the nurses who were born in this country leave because of poor support, it is so easy to import from elsewhere without fixing the problems.
    I look forward to the new recruits, but more importantly this government must give more support to the education here instead of knocking them down all the time and ensure that the nurses we already have work in an environment that is safe so they don't feel fear and fustration all the time.

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