A new drive to free up nurses to provide the care patients and relatives expect has been announced today by Prime Minister David Cameron and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.
The push will see nurses spending more time on front line care in wards and other services, a senior ward nurse with whom the buck stops, patients leading on inspections and a new ‘friends and family test’ to show whether nurses and patients had a good overall experience, or would want loved ones needing care to be treated at each hospital.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“We know the vast majority of patients are very happy with the care provided by the NHS. And I’ve seen the NHS at its very best. But we have heard recently that in some hospitals patients are not provided with the level care or respect they deserve and I am absolutely appalled by this.
“If we want dignity and respect, we need to focus on nurses and the care they deliver. The whole approach to caring in this country needs to be reset. And it needs to start with this simple fact. Caring for patients is what nurses do. Everything else comes second.”
Rolling out the NHS Institute’s ‘Time to Care’ initiative will free nurses from non-essential paperwork and excessive bureaucracy, that add little or no value to patients, to spend more time with patients. This has already helped staff in more than half of acute trusts to spend extra time with patients. A ”red-tape challenge” will also be introduced to identify barriers to preventing nurses from doing their job properly and remove them.
In place of non-essential paperwork and other unnecessary activities, nurses will be able to undertake regular nursing rounds which will ensure that every hour, they will be able to check that every patient is comfortable. Alongside this, a new incentive will be introduced for hospitals to report results on the ‘NHS Safety Thermometer’ to track four key standards of safety and nursing quality - pressure ulcers, falls, blood clots and catheter-acquired urinary tract infections.
Strong national leadership, to spread best nursing practice care across the NHS, will be provided by a new independent group of experts. The Nursing Quality Forum will look at how the best nursing practice can be spread throughout the NHS and how nursing leadership on hospital wards can be strengthened.
A new patient-led inspection regime will also be established, covering food, privacy, cleanliness and dignity. The results of these inspections will be reported on publicly, to help drive up standards of care. Results of patient feedback on their experience of care will also be published, and a new indicator will be introduced to all future national patient surveys, asking patients about their experience of care.
Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, said:
“I have seen many examples of excellent nursing leadership across the NHS. Nurses have told me that they want time to care for their patients and that strong leadership is key to making sure that standards for patients are high. These initiatives will strengthen the focus on nurse leadership and openness about the quality of care.
“Our ambition is to provide excellent care everywhere and by establishing a new independent body of nursing and care experts, we can help hospitals achieve this. By identifying what’s working locally, and what’s not, we can spread best practice across the board and begin to abolish practices that stand in the way of giving patients what they deserve: the highest standards of care.”
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said:
“Nurses working in every field have one thing in common - they chose the profession because they want to care for people. The profession will welcome the moves to free up nurses to put care first, and to focus all their energies on the needs of their patients. In particular, nurses themselves have emphasised the enormous burden of the paperwork they have to complete, day in and day out. An RCN survey found thatUKnurses spend more than a million hours a week on paperwork - time taken away from giving patients the best possible care.
“Reducing this burden will be very widely welcomed, as will the commitment to strengthening leadership on wards. Experienced nurses - like ward sisters - can provide expert leadership to the team. They need to be able to call the shots and supervise and develop the wider workforce. We hope that employers locally will support the Prime Minister’s commitment and ensure that staff are supported in delivering care.”