Examples of poor nursing care are happening too often, Sir Keith Pearson told the Royal College of Nursing Congress yesterday.
Sir Keith, chair of the NHS Confederation and co-chair of the Commission on Dignity in Care for older people, told nurses stories of poor care couldn’t be dismissed as one-off events.
Speaking in Harrogate, Sir Keith, who has been appointed as chairman of Health Education England, told congress: “Having spent 35 years working in the public and private health sectors of healthcare, I recognise, and I am sure you recognise that these examples are cropping up far too often.
“We cannot simply dismiss them as isolated incidents.”
He called for a cultural shift in the way people thought about care with the individual placed at the centre.
As reported in Nursing Times earlier this week, Sir Keith also argued for patients not to be seen as a task and said nurses needed to be recruited based on their “values” with a focus on care and not cure.
He said the ageing population was adding pressure on the system, adding: “Delivering dignified care is now one of the greatest challenges facing the NHS.
“The problem of poor care will only get worse if we don’t act now to change the culture in our hospitals and care homes.”
The audience reacted positively when Sir Keith levelled criticism at hospital boards who he said on occasion “spent a disproportionate amount of time looking at finances at the expense getting person centred dignified care right for patients and their families.”
Nurses needed to take individual responsibility for speaking up, he said, arguing low wages and poor staffing levels “never justify ignoring patients”.
He said poor care would follow if senior managers did not devolve leadership to staff.
The congress also heard the Dignity Commission dismissed the “myth” of nurses being “too posh to wash” as “nonsense” and he repeated the recommendations of the commission on a College of Care to lead on ideas to improve standards.
On staffing levels Sir Keith added: “I say, let’s have a debate about staffing levels. But let’s also not let that debate overshadow the importance of getting day-to-day care right.”
Members of the nursing profession were also urged to work with the commission to “root out poor care and unacceptable behaviour”.