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National system of checks for nursing values unveiled


Details of a new system of checks designed to test the values of applicants to nursing courses, and potentially qualified staff applying for new posts, have been launched, Nursing Times can reveal.

The system of scenario tests and interview questions has been specifically designed to check individuals have the right values to be a nurse.

From next April, all students applying to study a nursing degree in England will face the values-based assessments as part of efforts to help institutionalise a change in culture within the NHS. Health Education England, which has developed the new values-based recruitment framework, also hopes it will become standard practice for all employers when recruiting both clinical and non-clinical staff to jobs in the NHS.

The evidence based framework was due to be officially launched on Tuesday and brings together a specific toolkit of methods to test an individual’s personal values.

“I’m not claiming this is the answer to everything, it’s part of the national process to transform the culture of the NHS”

Nicki Latham

Under the new system, universities will be required to carry out face-to-face interviews with course applicants that include questions designed to tease out their values. In addition, they will be required to use the interviews in conjunction with situational judgment tests, which look at how an individual is likely to respond to specific situations.

It has been developed in the wake of the Francis report into failures at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, though the idea of testing job applicants and students for behaviours like compassion has been the subject of debate in the profession for a number of years.

Sir Robert Francis said students and staff should be tested for their values as part of ways to ensure the NHS had a culture of caring and putting the patient first.

Health Education England said it would contractually require all universities, covering more than 630 separate courses, to use the toolkit when recruiting students. It will also require patients and the public to be involved in the process.

While some universities are already carrying out some form of values assessment, a study by Health Education England in August found 28% were not individually interviewing students.

Professor Nicki Latham, chief operating officer at Health Education England, said the new assessments were aimed at introducing consistent standards for recruitment and ensuring students had the values required to work in the NHS.

Health Education England

Nicki Latham

She said: “There is evidence behind this – there are key areas that you can test someone for values through structured interviews, assessment centres or situational judgment tests, for example. There is a lot of good practice going on already and this is a really positive way to share that across the NHS.”

“I’m not claiming this is the answer to everything, it’s part of the national process to transform the culture of the NHS,” she said.

“But the one thing that will always remain the same is that we need staff with the right values. This will give us a consistent set of values across the NHS. It will become institutionalised,” she added.

The Care Quality Commission, NHS England, NHS Employers and other national bodies have all signed up to the framework and will each assess their own board members against the tool.

The Department of Health has commissioned a longitudinal study to track student nurses recruited after next April in order to assess the impact of the framework.


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Readers' comments (24)

  • When I applied to enroll at a school of nursing, I had to sit in front of a panel of lecturers and senior nurses. They grilled me, in fact it was like an interrogation. I finished the interview shaking and perspiring. I was hit with some very searching questions. Questions that I found difficult to answer, I remember thinking I had 'fluffed it'. My values were examined forensically. I made the mistake of saying I thought I would make a 'good nurse'. They pounced on me, and had me describe in detail why I thought that. I was like a startled rabbit blinded by car headlights. It was a very tough morning.

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  • michael stone

    This is the 'other part', of the same 'solution' which includes the '... must have worked previously as an HCA' earlier response.

    I'm not really sure, that if the 'must have already worked as an HCA' filter is present, you ALSO [strongly] need this 'attitude filter' when people apply for nursing courses (assuming it does go 'work as an HCA first, before you can apply for nursing training': I'm not quite sure, how that 'HCA thing' is working in practice). I think 'attitude' is very important, but the filter needs to work properly (and not do 'more harm than good').

    I'm also very uncertain, how significant the 'perceived problem this was intended to address' really is: the Mail et al had headlined 'our nurses don't care any more', which the goverment leapt on. But until you eliminate the staffing issues - Francis and many others, have made it clear that frequently nurses are so-over-worked that, to use my phrase, 'nurses often do not have the time, to make it apparent that they do 'care'' - you can't work out which is the more important.

    My gut instinct, is that the bigger problem (and probably by a fair margin) is the 'nurses are rushed off their feet, and being asked to do too many things at once' issue - which, as takling it costs a lot of money, isn't going to be the one this goverment pushes to prominence.

    And nurses shouldn't be getting blamed, for the problems in the NHS which are outside of their control (I do get the impression, that various people 'have a go at nurses' when they are less keen to pick a fight with medics).

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  • You can have all the right values in the world, but if you have to do far too much with too few staff, there will inevitably be compassion fatigue.
    No-one with the "wrong" values would go into nursing - it's one of the reasons used for paying so little.
    And what about the values of ministers - if staff are not treated with respect and affirmation, how can they continue to demonstrate these qualities to their patients?

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  • Shall there be a system for checking doctors values?

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  • I started my nurse training in the 1980's as an 18yr old fresh from school with 3 A levels - not a requirement in those days. No experience as an HCA required. I was accepted at 6 diferent schools of nursing after long gruelling days of interview and assessment at each school. Refelcting back I am sure those tutors knew what to look for as they observed us interacting with one another.
    Under the new proposals you would loose a commited and passionate nurse who knew it was the one and only thing she wanted to do from the age of 5. I have never waivered from this since the age of 5 and as I approach retirement I can reflect on a long and mostly happy career which I would have been denied. Tiredness and being taken for granted brings about changes in attitudes.

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  • Absolutely right that new recruits are tested for their values on care and compassion.

    After all we need to make sure they're not coming into nursing for the amazing pay, pensions or short working hours and unending gratitute of patients, carers and managers...........

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  • Student nurses were not a key issue at Mid Staffs, other than the Dean of the Faculty of Health claiming at the Inquiry: 1) Staffordshire University possessed no out of the ordinary evidence of bad practice as reported by students. 2)That it was OK for her students to learn in a bad practice. 3) A student complaining of bad practice was discontinued from her programme because she showed the wrong "attitude".

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  • I think some of the previous comments have confused this new initiative with the pre-degree "Year of Care" programme which, whilst having many comnon themes, is entirely seperate.

    This article is slightly misrepesentative, implying that this is a "test" for nurses, when it is in fact a set of guiding principles and resources to support and encourage ALL nhs funded training recruiters (and yes - this does include medics and other health professionals) to assess the values of their applicants before offering a place.

    Yes, we all know about compassion fatigue, we all understand that the NHS places increasing demands on it's staff with decreasing resource, and we all know NHS staff that have become disillusioned and find it harder to maintain those values that they start off with because of this. But this is exactly the reason we need to ensure those coming into the NHS are committed and truly understand what being an NHS professional means, before we spend public money on their training. We need to know that they will contribute to a caring compassionate workforce and not add to the burden on the NHS.

    It's clear that it's not just about getting the right staff in from the start, but also about creating an environment conducive to nurturing and enhancing those values that most of us start off with. And values based recruitment is just the first cog in a much bigger system that collectively is striving to create a workforce that patients deserve and the NHS can be proud of.

    To my mind, standardising assessment of values at the beginning is a really positive step and absolutely key to improving not just the patient experience, in the care they ultimately receive, but also for
    trainees, in the effect it has on their training placements, and NHS staff, in the working environment where they witness and display these values.

    Anyone who thinks this is a backward step either hasn't read and understood what this is about or is determined to see negatives in every change, and probably needs a reminder to check their values.

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  • The penultimate comment says it all really.!!! Give the recruits what tests you like...the bottom line is, we need to recruit more is just not possible to give the care to the standard we all want with so few on the ground.. Those who want to go into the profession do so with a view to making a difference...lets not let them think its futile...we need change..The nurses need support and fair pay..Its demeaning to refuse them the smallest pay rise imaginable and yet demand more and more from them without acknowledging them as professionals.....We are burning them out!

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  • This above comment relates to the comment posted on the 21 10 2014 at 3.12

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