Nurses displaying bad attitudes towards patients are routinely being moved to different wards instead of being challenged on their performance, staff have told the prime minister’s commission on nursing.
The nurses were attending an event held by NHS London last Wednesday to hear views on the work of the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery.
The commission’s “vision” statement, which talks of nurses releasing their untapped potential and taking centre stage in health leadership, was called “lovely” and a “nice vision” by attendees.
But they also said that in order to achieve the vision, the NHS needs to find better ways of dealing with poor performers.
One unnamed nurse said she did not know what to do about a member of her team who “talked to patients like dirt”.
Another said: “It’s very difficult to manage certain attitudes, we need to be empowered with the ability to support our staff and help them internalise their problems.”
It was felt by some that human resources departments in the NHS were overly defensive.
A nurse said: “We’re so protected in the NHS. In the banking industry they’d have to either step up or go out but in the NHS they’re just moved to another ward.”
Some called for a national contract on the professional behaviour expected of nurses and midwives.
Participants also discussed the commission’s 10 “hot topics” – areas requiring more debate.
Ideas for clarifying roles included having a national uniform and providing clearer information to patients.
One group suggested describing nurses in generic terms such as qualified nurses, matrons and specialists.
Roles also needed to be more clearly explained within trusts so that clinicians working across departments were able to identify colleagues with extra qualifications such as prescribing powers, they said.
Regional events are being held around the country before the commission delivers its final report to Gordon Brown early next year.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “We enjoyed hearing what nurses and midwives had to say at this event and we will take these comments onboard alongside the range of views expressed at our events, which have taken place across the country.
“Tackling poor performance is an issue that the commission has identified as being important - we are currently exploring whether current performance development and supervision systems need to change, as set out in our hot topic questions.”