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The nursing voice must be both heard and listened to

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Getting the “nursing voice” heard or, perhaps more importantly, listened to is a common refrain heard at conferences and in reports. But how often do words get turned into action?

Well, nurse leaders at a major London hospital trust are currently taking steps that should hopefully have a real impact by boosting the profession’s input in how the organisation is run.

As exclusively revealed by Nursing Times, Barts Health Trust, the largest acute provider in England, is inviting nurses, midwives and allied health professionals to join a “clinical senate” of 80 people that will meet three times a year to debate key professional and care issues and identify potential solutions.

The aim is to ensure they have “a voice to be reckoned with” in the planning and delivery of services, according to those behind the initiative.

The new senate, which will comprise staff from different levels, including students and healthcare assistants, will be chaired by Barts’ chief nurse and driving force behind the idea Caroline Alexander.

It will probably come as no surprise to many readers that Ms Alexander noted that nursing has “not always had the loudest voice” in the trust.

“Nursing has “not always had the loudest voice” in the trust”

She told us that the initiative was designed to ensure the organisation was in future “engaging properly from ward to board”, and to “strengthen the voice” of nurses and others.

“I want to make sure that if we are going to design the right care, right place, right time with the right staff, we have a strong forum for those voices to come together and really start influencing leaders like me,” she added.

On a similar note, I want to highlight that moves are also afoot to boost the profile of nursing at the country’s fourth largest acute provider.

As Nursing Times reported last week, Nottingham University Hospitals Trust is to be the next UK organisation to apply for international recognition of its nursing care through the US Magnet scheme.

The trust has formally launched its bid to achieve Magnet status by the end of 2019, following in the footsteps of Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust last year.

These are both excellent examples of local initiatives but they must not be isolated. I was talking to the chief nursing officer for England on Friday, ahead of her summit for nurse leaders later this month, and she too highlighted a need to get the profession more involved in leading change.

Jane Cummings was speaking to me specifically about getting nurses more involved in the sustainability and transformation plans that have been drawn up for 44 areas across England.

I wholeheartedly agree with the CNO, given the controversy and conspiracies surrounding the aim behind STPs, and the raising of concerns that some could see nursing posts cut.

“CCGs must listen to the advice of nurses”

It reminded me of Nursing Times’ successful Seat on the Board campaign to ensure nurse representation in the governing bodies of clinical commissioning groups. CCGs must listen to the advice of those nurses now when it comes to STPs.

To return to my overall theme, given the incredible pressures that people are working under right now, combined with the many regional service changes on the horizon, it is vital that nursing has a seat at the table when key issues are being discussed.

The profession must be a respected and equal partner in decisions and not simply a group of staff that is done to, as has often happened in the past – it is, after all, the largest workforce in the NHS.

I would strongly encourage more trusts to follow the lead of Barts and Nottingham, and take concrete action to get the nursing voice heard at every level. I’m making a personal plea to NHS leaders, listen to your nurses – you will benefit, your organisations will benefit, your staff will benefit and ultimately your patients will benefit.

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