The day the Francis report came out, if you asked anyone what they thought of it, they’d say: “Long, and too many recommendations.”
Now the dust has settled, a week or so on, and if you ask someone what they think of the report, their response is more considered. They pause before saying: “Long, and too many recommendations.”
The truth is “fixing” the NHS was never going to be a simple 10-point plan. Every area of the organisation needed to be examined.
Just last week we heard Stephen Dorrell, chair of the Commons Health Select Committee, describe the culture as “corrupt” on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, when it featured an interview with Gary Walker, the former NHS chief executive who it claimed was the first whistleblower ever to break the terms of his gagging contract. Meanwhile, 14 hospitals are being investigated for unusually high mortality rates and nurses continue to tell us their wards are dangerously understaffed.
So, yes, there is a long to-do list to put right the ills of the NHS. And I would imagine it will take the chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings and director of nursing at the Department of Health Viv Bennett some time to unpick the report and work out what must become policy and practice for nursing.
But this should actually be the job of all nurses. The Francis report is a chance to stop and take stock. If nurses don’t examine the recommendations and have debates about the findings, then we will have squandered £13m - and a golden opportunity.
Everyone in the profession has a responsibility to be familiar with what Robert Francis QC said about nursing. Certainly, nearly 3,000 nurses who took part in our post-Francis report survey welcome the recommendations. Supernumerary ward sisters, healthcare assistant regulation and key nurse workers are some of the popular things from Francis’ list.
In our practice pages, we have already started pulling out some of Francis’ new key findings. We’ve looked at several issues, including those of privacy, dignity and continence care. Over the coming months we will continue to publish articles that will help you to think about what this report should mean to your practice.
Francis must be the start of the new NHS. Examine what needs to be kept, and be brave in challenging that which is not helping the service attain its best. Changes must take place all over the NHS, but nursing must claim its share of the responsibility.