Matrons should be able to concentrate on basic nursing care standards rather than meeting performance targets, the Patients Association has said.
The patient advocacy charity said the government’s attempts to bring back the post had failed because commitments to patient care were being sidelined by bureaucracy.
It has today published a report highlighting what it describes as “serious failings in standards of nursing care, poor communication with relatives and an ineffective complaints handling system”.
The report Listen to patients, Speak up for change includes 17 firsthand accounts of hospital care of older patients from across the NHS.
It is a follow up to a similar report published last year called Patients not numbers, People not statistics.
Patient Association chief executive Katherine Murphy said: “It is clear from the stories we hear on our helpline that too many patients are being badly let down. It’s a scandal and it’s outrageous that has been persisting for years. Families are left with a life sentence of grief, with no lessons learnt and the same failings continuing.”
She added: “The NHS has tried to bring back matron, but is hasn’t worked. That absolute commitment to patient care seems to get sidelined by targets, finances and bureaucracy.
“What we need is a matron who can ignore all of that. They can tell trust managers, ‘forget your strategic framework and middle manager initiatives, it is meaningless if patients are not getting the vital nursing care they are entitled to.”
Ms Murphy also called for the NHS complaints system to be “reviewed urgently”.
“Patients and carers need to be able to call on a real advocate when they complain, someone to fight their corner,” she said.
Speaking about the report on BBC 4’s Today programme today, Kieran Mullan, also of the Patients Association, said: “We’ve put forward the idea that there should be a senior matron type figure who could really be a patient champion.
“They would be independent of the hospital in some way, whether that’s with the regulator or the local authority. Someone who focuses on these essential care needs.
“There is something there about the old school matron who would not take no for an answer on patient care,” he added in response to a suggestion that a “Hattie Jacques” figure was needed.
Royal College of Nursing general secretary and chief executive Peter Carter said the report’s findings did not come as a surprise.
He said: “We commend the Patients Association. They are absolutely right to keep standing up for patients’ rights and highlighting poor care.
“We have real concerns about the care in some of our hospitals. Now is it a question that the individual nurse is poor or is it a question that there are systemic failings in some hospitals.”