News story

'Patients not paperwork'

The Prime Minister will today set out the government's aim to improve quality in the health service

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

During visits to two hospitals in north west England, David Cameron will talk about the government’s drive to ensure that every patient is cared for with compassion and dignity in a clean environment.

The Prime Minister will announce the following priorities:

  • patients not paperwork: we will get rid of a swathe of bureaucracy that stops nurses from doing what they do best
  • regular nursing rounds: to systematically and routinely check that patients are comfortable, are properly fed and hydrated, and are treated with dignity and respect, with the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) helping to make it happen
  • leadership on the wards: people want to see a figure of authority on the ward. To help do so, a Nursing Quality Forum of front line nurses and nursing leaders will be set up, charged with taking a national leadership role in promoting excellent care and ensuring good practice is adopted across the NHS
  • new patient-led inspections of hospital wards: local people will go in as part of teams assessing cleanliness, dignity and nutrition and their findings will be published
  • new ‘friends and family test’: this will ask whether patients, carers and staff would recommend their hospital to their families and friends in their hour of need. We will publish the results and hospital leaders who fail this test will be held to account

Mr Cameron said:

We’ve talked a lot in the last 18 months about getting the right structures in place to secure the long term future of the NHS.  But we can’t just sit around waiting until the structural changes take effect. There’s something really fundamental that needs to be put right fast. We need an NHS which ensures that every patient is cared for with compassion and dignity in a clean environment.

We know the vast majority of patients are very happy with the care provided by the NHS. I’ve seen the NHS at its very best - the incredible people for whom nursing is a true vocation, who go beyond the call of duty and combine great medical knowledge with great care. But I also know we’ve got a real problem in some of our hospitals with patients not getting the food and drink they need or being treated with the respect they deserve.  The Care Quality Commission found one in five hospitals wanting. I am absolutely appalled by this. And we are going to put this right.

If we want dignity and respect, we need to focus on nurses and the care they deliver. Somewhere in the last decade the health system has conspired to undermine one of this country’s greatest professions. It’s not one problem in particular. It’s the stifling bureaucracy.  The lack of consequence for failing to treat people with dignity. Even, at times - as we saw with Mid-Staffordshire - the pursuit of cost-cutting or management targets without sufficient regard for quality of care.

Nursing needs to be about patients not paperwork. So we are going to get rid of a whole load of bureaucracy that stops nurses from doing what they do best. And in return patients should expect nurses to undertake regular nursing rounds - systematically and routinely checking that each of their patients is comfortable, properly fed and hydrated, and treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

This happens in the best hospitals. In some it has never stopped happening. Now it needs to happen in every hospital. And the Royal College of Nursing support us on this and we’ll be working with them to make it happen.

Published 6 January 2012