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Interview: CNO urges NHS to give nurses time to innovate


Nurses must be given the time and space to develop and try new ways to improve care, says England’s chief nursing officer.

Speaking ahead of this year’s Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester next month, Jane Cummings said nurses also needed to do more to share and learn from good practice.

“Staff are fantastic at thinking of new ways of doing things and doing things better,” she told Nursing Times.

“What we’re not very good at in the NHS is taking those lessons or pieces of work other people do and then saying ‘how can I apply that in my own organisation’.”

While she acknowledged many nurses across the country were already over-stretched, Ms Cummings said it was still vital to take time out and explore new ideas.

“It would be naive of me to say that everybody has got time to do this everywhere, because we know many staff are working under huge pressure,” she said.

“But if we don’t give staff the time and ability to implement these things and look at doing things differently you just do more of what you’ve always had.

“Doing the same things faster isn’t necessarily the right thing to do, she said. “Both for individual nurses and midwives and for their managers and senior staff it’s about having the courage to step up or step back and say ‘right – we are going to try this out’.”

She highlighted a scheme at King’s College Hospital in London where junior staff nurses spend a couple of hours each week talking to patients being treated in other wards and services.

“They’re not providing any direct patient care, but they are talking to those patients, asking them how they are, what their experiences are and if they have any concerns or issues. They get a huge amount of really important information,” explained Ms Cummings.

This is then reported back to ward sisters who can act immediately to address minor issues before they escalate. Ms Cummings said the initiative had helped boost staff nurses’ confidence in communicating openly with patients and responding to concerns, and had helped sisters make changes that had improved patient experiences.

“It’s a really good example of where people have actually taken a pro-active decision to take time and do that and the outcomes have been really positive,” she said.

The Expo conference on 3-4 March, which is run by NHS England, is designed to showcase these kind of ground-breaking ideas in frontline practice and the running of services.

It will feature the official launch of this year’s NHS Change Day where staff pledge to do something that will make a difference, and the presentation of a new award for “compassionate care”.


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Readers' comments (5)

  • michael stone

    I support the concept of learning from experience - i.e. picking up and running with better practices - but there is an 'idea' that NHS behaviour will improve by a sort of Darwinian Selection process, with 'good ideas, beliefs and behaviours' spreading and pushing out poorer ones. This isn't invariably true - 'beliefs' in particular, tend to consolidate towards 'established norms' and then they become very difficult to alter.

    But I'm guessing that 'We'd love to do this stuff - but we are not given the time !!!' might be a common response to this article.

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  • tinkerbell

    the answer to our struggle. Hooray! Don't worry, be happy. Nurse Zog from planet Og.

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  • tinkerbell

    learning from experience and learning through experience are 2 different ways of learning. The former is usually learning by your mistakes, with hindsight, which we should avoid when peoples lives are at stake, and the latter is learning from a good role model and competent practitioner alongside you.

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  • michael stone

    tinkerbell | 10-Feb-2014 12:49 pm

    An interesting explanation of how nurses in particular have traditionally 'learnt' - through what I suppose could be described as mentoring - but it isn't learning from mistakes that is to be avoided. Learning from mistakes is crucial, especially when mistakes are so damaging - which isn't to say that everything possible shouldn't be done to avoid making such mistakes.

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  • tinkerbell

    it was one example not the whole nine yards!

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