Chief nursing officer Dame Christine Beasley has told the Mid Staffordshire public inquiry that nursing “lost its way” as not enough attention was paid to the “values” of new entrants to the profession during the recruitment drive at the turn of the century.
Dame Christine said although there was a need for rapid recruitment, following years of underinvestment during the 1990s, potential recruits were not challenged enough to “make absolutely certain nursing was right for them”.
Dame Christine’s comments came in response to questions from inquiry counsel about why problems with basic nursing care had arisen.
She accepted the problem of poor care went beyond a few rogue trusts but denied it was endemic or that nursing was in crisis.
Staffing levels and levels of agency and temporary staff were other factors that had impacted on quality, she said, and also criticised boards and nursing directors had been to easily “reassured rather than assured” about the quality of care in their trusts.
She warned against looking back through “rose tinted” glasses to the era of the matron, and argued when she trained in that system it sometimes produced “such fear that you never said anything if things went wrong”.
She also said patients expectations had changed.
“When I trained patients were passive recipients of care because that’s where society was. Now patients are much, much more assertive and want care to be individualised to themselves .”
She blamed an increasing burden of paperwork for taking away ward sisters and charge nurses’ focus from their core responsibilities on the ward and said although it was right that nurses should understand the “business of the ward” and make decision they did not need to do all the paperwork that went with it.
However, she argued the burden of paperwork is now disappearing.
Asked whether she thought there should be government guidance on staffing levels and skill mix, Dame Christine said there was a wealth of information out there boards and nursing directors could use to aid their judgements.
Dame Christine is one of a number of high profile figures appearing before the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry this month.