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Prime minister receives standing ovation from RCN


Prime minister Gordon Brown has received a standing ovation after making an historic address to the RCN’s annual congress.

It was the first time in the college’s 93-year history that a serving prime minister had addressed delegates.

Mr Brown used the occasion to highlight the importance of quality of patient care in the NHS and to thank nurses for their contribution to health care and to society as a whole.

He also pledged to support nurse whistleblowers who feel the need to make concerns known to third parties about quality of patient care.

Additionally, Mr Brown promised to ensure that health spending was not reduced because of the recession. He added that politicians should take note of the standards set by nurses and used the occasion to apologise for the recent scandal over MPs’ expenses.

Mr Brown also made a reference to his daughter, Jennifer Jane, who died when she was two months old. ‘I would like to thank you for saving lives, for relieving pain and giving people comfort…when they are facing that mystery of life, which is death,’ he said.

‘Everybody has their own experience of the NHS. Every single family will have their own experience of their own story, their own history, their own recollection of the work done by the NHS.

‘Some of the things that we have to deal with are so difficult that we are not able to talk about it,’ he said. ‘Sarah and I find it difficult to talk about things that have happened to us.’

Mr Brown then faced a round of questions from the floor.

John Kelshall, from the West Midlands, asked the prime minister how we would protect nurses who blew the whistle on poor quality care.

Mr Brown replied: ‘We have to make it easier for people to say something without fear of their job, without fear or intimidate at their place of work.’

He advised them to ring a confidential advice line advertised on the NHS web site or to contact the regulator, the Care Quality Commission.

‘It is no good brushing things under the table, I want to defend those people who see something is wrong and their right to do something about it.’

Mr Brown went on to reassure nurses that the situation at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which was heavily criticised by the old healthcare regulator, the Healthcare Commission, was being monitored.

‘The health service is all about quality and standards. Mid Staffordhshire is a grim reminder that we must never take our eye off the values of the NHS,’ he said.


Readers' comments (3)

  • Dear dear,

    Gordon Brown is jumping on the band wagon again.

    His spin doctors must be having a field day.

    His party has managed a significant decline in caring attitudes and gross inefficiencies.
    They have been in long enough to be totally repsonsible for this decline in standards - they could have done much much more.

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  • Its strange how people always want to react negatively to an overture.Well done Mr Brown, you did not have to attend the conference, to those who have reacted in a negative way, I say 'don't judge people by your own standards'.

    On the subject of declining standards, I have had plenty of experience in my 30 year career to know that attitude has a lot to do with how patients and staff are treated. Most of my career has been based in Community but in the past 8 months I have been hospital based. I am amazed at the lack of friendliness and respect and the negative attitude not just of each other but also to patients and ancilliary staff. Many of the hospital based staff seemed to lack the ability to make eye contact, staff, not just nursing, walk on to wards with out so much as an hello or excuse me and walk straight past the nurses station. The Primary Care Trust I am employed by were undertaking a pilot transitional care ward. Although we were only running for 3 months it proved to be a success in that short space of time. I was lucky enough to be acting as the Sister, working with a Ward Manager who has also had a lifetime in Nursing, she will be retiring in July. The ward was run with 4 substantive staff, the rest were supplied by the Community Nurse Bank, we had up to 30 on the off duty. The climate was transformational with no one being any more important than anyone else. Some patients were with us less than twenty four hours and others as long as three weeks. ALL comments from patients, relatives and staff were positive this included Ambulance staff , cleaners and porters, who did a great job and who we saw a lot of. The phrase we adhered to was "its nice to be important but its more important to be nice". Some of the bank staff had not been in nursing before. After their time on the ward, several have gone on to apply for nurse training, others have applied to do extra training. The standard of care was excellent, it was the same care I was taught in my training (i was an enrolled nurse first, so very practical). I have to admit the academic writing style has held me back in my career but the knowledge gained has been priceless. My standards of care have only gotten better. I feel that Leadership and a positive attitude is definitely the key.

    Two of my friends have recently been in hospital for quite serious surgery and treatment, one is a nurse. Both observed that the ward operated differently depending on who was in charge.

    So blaming the government is a cop out. staff should imagine being a patient in the area in which they work, they should try and look at how they come across through a patient's eyes? We are supposed to be the patient's advocate at a time that they are feeling scared and vulnerable, yes, this may come across as aggressive or aloof, but it is up to us to provide reassurance and a safe place for them not to have to worry or be judged. Sorry to have gone on, but it gets me really mad at how people blame their surroundings or tools or lack of resources (we had a lot less when i trained) as an excuse to not giving good nursing care. When you put the uniform on you are at work, a lot of responsibility goes with the uniform, which is why I like the idea that has been put forward in Wales that nursing, as is done in Policing, should have a uniform that cannot be worn unless you are a nurse.

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  • A standing ovation from the RCN doesn't suprise me one bit. They don't know their ar*e from their elbow.

    A standing ovation for the man who could be PM when up to 36,000 nursing posts are lost. . . .it beggars belief!

    You complete and utter RCN twerps.

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