The Olympic torch is being passed carefully from one hand to another around the country right now, but it’s not the only baton being gingerly transferred at the moment.
For this week, Dame Christine Beasley finally gets a chance to retire as England’s chief nursing officer. After eight years, she is handing over some of her senior nursing responsibilities to Jane Cummings on 31 May, after relinquishing a few earlier in the year to the Department of Health’s director of nursing for public health Viv Bennett.
And Ms Cummings, as the next CNO of England, takes on quite a task as she holds that flame aloft. She and Professor Bennett have to work through the recommendations made by the prime minister’s Nursing Care and Quality Forum.
It’s good to see the forum’s chair Sally Brearley and her team have quickly identified what is important in nursing and to nursing. As well as staffing levels, they stress how crucial visible clinical leadership is, the need to stop the erosion of nursing leaders’ autonomy and authority and how vital it is that they work with the new CNO to promote a positive collaborative view of nursing. All good stuff.
They have been specific about supporting the prime minister’s call for the “friends and family” test – whereby patients reveal whether they would recommend the organisation where they received care to their loved ones – to be rolled out across the NHS and made public; for nurse leaders to be fully in charge and supernumerary; and for the Care Quality Commission to scrutinise trusts on staff resourcing.
Such recommendations can’t come as much of a surprise. What is needed, though, is for the forum to maintain this momentum, and continue to engage with the nursing community to find a strong evidence base to support its calls for changes to practice and solutions to provide more time for patient-focused care.
Nursing will not be improved by some vague often-made-before-pledge to commit to something, but actual specifics and a template for best practice. What works, what doesn’t, how much money does it cost and how safe is it?
Let’s hope that the forum, as it enters its next phase, is as quick to recommend specific changes needed to improve practice and the public’s attitude to the profession. And that it is taken notice of and empowered to make these changes actually happen. After all, the profession can’t afford for this report to end up on a shelf, covered in dust.