The quality of nursing care in England, and particularly that given to older patients, looks set to come under special scrutiny from the new health and social care regulator.
The head of the Care Quality Commission, which began operating in April, has strongly hinted that improving nursing care will be one of the key focuses of the regulator’s work because of its importance to the government’s NHS quality agenda.
Care Quality Commission chair Baroness Barbara Young said: “There is a real challenge for nursing. Somewhere along the line we’re not getting it quite right in terms of frontline care for people.
“There are some real challenges out there for how we recruit, train, and supervise nurses in the future, and how nurses should operate. That is particularly germane in what I think in many places is poor quality healthcare for elderly people,” she told delegates last week at a seminar in London on the future of the NHS, organised by the Westminster Health Forum.
“I hope during the course of this year to be working with the nursing profession to identify what we can effectively do as a regulator to help put a spotlight on that particular issue,” Baroness Young said.
She highlighted nursing as the key to improving overall care quality in the NHS. “It does seem to me that nurses are absolutely the most important profession in the delivery of quality,” she said.
“If you look at what patients feel about quality, they generally believe they’re getting good clinical standards. What they don’t feel is that they are being treated as individuals with dignity and respect – that they are at the centre of their care.
“The capacity and opportunity for nurses and nurse leaders to deliver that is huge. I think we are really at a crossroads of where nursing is for the future,” said Baroness Young.
Patients Association chair Roswyn Hakesley-Brown also addressed the seminar, discussing reaction to the charity’s high profile report into poor care standards – titled Patients Not Numbers, People Not Statistics – published last month.
“We’ve had an enormous response from nurses themselves, who are generally in agreement with our report, and ask what they can do to help. We hope to collate this correspondence and explore how we can work in partnership with these healthcare professionals,” she said.
Ms Hakesley-Brown highlighted some of the problems to be addressed. For example, she said some older hospital patients were reluctant to drink during the day because of the potential of bedwetting during the night and not being able to call the nurse.
She described how, as a nurse tutor, she had persuaded two students to lie in wet beds wearing swimsuits during a lecture on the care of the incontinent patient.
“They then conveyed to their classmates what it had been like – warm and comfortable in the beginning…cold, clammy and very, very unpleasant as time passed. Their advantage was that the water was clean,” she added.