The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s revised code of conduct has come into force this month.
All nurses and midwives should have received a copy of the new code, which comes into effect from 31 March.
The code is intended to place patient expectations at the heart of professional practice and reflect changes in healthcare over the last seven years, including the Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, said the NMC.
Jackie Smith, NMC chief executive and registrar, said: “The code sets out the professional standards for nurses and midwives. It puts patients at the heart of practice, and will help us to protect the public better.”
The revised code builds on the content of the current version, which was published in 2008, said the NMC. Many of the updates are linked to themes highlighted by the Francis report, such as campassion and whistleblowing.
“Public expectations of care have changed radically since the code was last reviewed”
The new version includes changes to section on the fundamentals of care, which cover the essential aspects of caring for a patient, including making sure that a patient has adequate access to nutrition and hydration – an issue frequently written about by the media in relation to care failings.
It also highlights the new duty of candour, which requires nurses and midwives to be open and honest with colleagues, patients and regulators when things go wrong, and states that registrants should raise concerns “without delay if they are aware of a threat to patient safety or public protection”.
In addition, it states that nurses and midwives should make sure that they delegate tasks and duties “appropriately” and those they delegate to complete tasks to the required standard. This section is designed to fill a gap on the delegation of tasks by nurses to healthcare assistants, which was identified by Francis.
Nurses and midwives also have a professional duty to “take action in an emergency”, clarifying confusion about the previous version of the code relating to so-called “Samaritan acts”. Nurses and midwives should take action in an emergency when off-duty, within the limits of their competence, states the updated code.
The regulator has been keen to point out a new section of the code dealing with social media use. Nurses and midwives should use social media “responsibly, in line with our guidance”, it says.
Ms Smith added: “Public expectations of care have changed radically since the code was last reviewed. It is essential that it reflects patients’ needs, modern healthcare practice, and the recommendations of reviews such as the Francis inquiry.”
The code is shaped around four statements, which state that good nurses and midwives will prioritise people, practise effectively, preserve safety, and promote professionalism and trust.
The code will be central to revalidation, the series of three-yearly checks being introduced at the end of 2015.