An acute trust in the West Midlands is recruiting nearly 50 extra nurses in order to introduce supervisory status for ward managers in its three main hospitals, in the wake of the government’s response to the Francis report.
Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust has announced it will be investing £1.4m to enable the introduction of supervisory ward sisters and charge nurses across wards at its Heartlands, Good Hope and Solihull hospitals.
It will be using the money to recruit an additional 49 whole time equivalent registered nurses to backfill the current clinical duties of the ward sisters and charge nurses.
In a statement the trust said the “ward sister is essential to facilitating safe and timely discharge of patients, reductions in nurse sickness levels, and in setting and monitoring standards of excellent nursing care”.
It said introducing supervisory status across base wards would ensure that “effective priority and time can be given to managing and developing the ward team performance, thus enhancing the patient experience”.
Robert Francis QC’s Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry had recommended ward managers operate in a supervisory capacity “except in emergencies”.
The Department of Health’s initial response to the Francis report, published on 26 March, described supervisory status as an example of “known good practice” and said there was a “good body of evidence” to support it.
While it stopped short of making it compulsory, the DH said hospital inspectors would in future require a “valid explanation” when they found wards not using supervisory status for sisters and charge nurses.
Heart of England’s chief nurse Mandie Sunderland said: “This is excellent news and demonstrates how much the trust board recognises and values the role of its senior nurses. I look forward to working with the ward sisters/charge nurses across the summer to make this initiative a reality.
“We have a lot of work to do, particularly in relation to recruiting so many additional nurses,” she added. “However, I am sure we will be successful and see the return of the ward sister/charge nurse as the pivotal leader within their clinical area.”
The Royal College of Nursing welcomed the trust’s announcement, describing it as a “very positive step forward for both nurses and patients”.
RCN West Midlands regional director Paul Vaughan said: “As HEFT itself has recognised, in order to fulfil the supervisory role properly, the ward sister/charge nurse must work in addition to the ward nursing establishment, and the government’s response to the Francis report into the failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust made this very point.”
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