_Nursing is a mess but those at the top fail to admit it_
Something has gone badly wrong with the nursing profession. But despite all the evidence, I fear we are no closer to doing something about it. Everyone’s talking about it, but the very people who can help to do something are still in denial.
Traditionally, we have been reluctant to criticise nurses — partly because we fear that relatives still in hospital will suffer the backlash if we complain. It isn’t easy to put your head above the parapet and speak out. I did because I owed it to my mother — but be prepared to be very unpopular.
I lost my mother in Stafford Hospital. She went in for a routine hernia operation but eight weeks later she died; a nurse dropped her and she never recovered from the fall. The ward she had been on was chaotic; the staff seemed to be oblivious to the suffering of patients, many of whom were screaming out in pain.
Now the noise of complaint is getting too loud for the medical profession and authorities to ignore. Report after report highlights these failings. Yet those in nursing leadership roles still do little. Dame Christine Beasley, the Chief Nursing Officer, gave evidence recently to the public inquiry into the appalling conditions at Stafford. We the bereaved relatives sat in the gallery hoping to hear that urgent action was being taken. We wanted to hear how she was ensuring that the nursing profession would return to high standards of care. She gave no indication that she was even aware that there was a problem, or any urgency to do anything about it.
Peter Carter, the president of the Royal College of Nursing, also gave evidence to the inquiry in March. I struggle with the very idea that the RCN can be a royal college; it is a politicised union that has overseen this decline in standards. This week Mr Carter blames the unregulated healthcare assistants for appalling care and says that relatives should be helping to meet basic nursing needs for family members because nurses are too busy. These are the very people leading the profession and yet they fail miserably to acknowledge the extent of their failings.
The culture of caring has been crushed by the way nursing is now taught and by managers focused on targets and finance. The NHS must be turned the right way up with clinicians and nurses, not managers, leading the way. They should tell those who have brought shame on their profession to change or leave. Above all, they should remember that the most important person is the patient and the purpose of being a nurse is to serve the sick.
Julie Bailey set up Cure the NHS and led the campaign to improve standards at Stafford Hopital_ Julie via Times London
Sadly, Julie Bailey has described most hospitals in UK and the attitude of many nursing staff.