The health secretary has said he hopes the opportunity to lead improvements to patient care will overcome cynicism from the profession about the new nursing and care quality forum.
Andrew Lansley was speaking to Nursing Times following the inaugural meeting of the forum, at which its full membership and details of its workstreams were announced.
Mr Lansley said nurse leadership was critical to improving quality and he wanted the forum to be “owned by nurses across the service”.
“I hope that the issue is not really about nurses applying cynicism to another government initiative; it’s about nurse leaders saying to their colleagues, ‘we’ve been given the opportunity to do this’,” he said. “The message we want to put across was that nursing is absolutely critical to the quality of patient care.”
Mr Lansley said he wanted “get beyond…. a lot of reports and good principles about nursing”.
“What we need to do now is see that translated into mechanisms by which best practice is achieved across the service and that’s what people [on the forum] will be focused on,” he told Nursing Times.
He acknowledged that the work of the forum could overlap with some of the recommendations of the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry, which is due to report in the autumn – around six months later than originally thought.
For example, Mr Lansley highlighted the use of staff feedback, such as the “friends and family test” in the annual staff survey – under which staff are asked if they would recommend their hospital or service.
“It’s no secret that if you were to look back, that was one of the indicators at Stafford that was in a bad place at quite an early stage,” he said.
He acknowledged many nursing directors had already implemented intentional ward rounding and productive ward – two of the initiatives championed by the prime minister when he announced the creation of the forum in January.
He said it should act as “positive reassurance” to nurses engaged in either programme that they were carrying out best practice. “But there are many places where, with some of these things, I think we’ve got a way to go,” he said.
Mr Lansley also confirmed that the forum would have a wider scope than just registered nurses working in acute care, despite much attention so far focusing on nursing in hospitals.
He said members had discussed “ensuring that it was not only concerned with the acute sector and very much focused how we go about improving overall care in the community and in primary care”.
“It was also said [in the forum meeting] that across health and care services that the majority of care maybe delivered not by nurses but by care assistants,” he said.
Many in the profession have drawn similarities between the forum and Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery, which was set up under Gordon Brown.
Asked how he would ensure the forum’s recommendations would be taken forward, unlike many of the former commissions, Mr Lansley said “everything that the forum is doing will be operational immediately”.
He said he expected the forum’s workstreams would produce a series of best practice proposals that could “be fed directly into the service”, rather than a report being published.
“The point is not to produce something and then wonder if it just gets put on a shelf,” he said. “Certainly their [the forum’s] intention and ours is to have a real time relationship with nurses across the service.”