Nursing has been expecting some criticisms from the Francis report and we certainly got a good dose of it this week.
It is a broad and far-reaching report, with painful observations that pose fundamental challenges to nursing to ensure the public can rely on us. Nursing has a whole chapter devoted to observations, criticisms and recommendations. Though a very lengthy report at 2000 pages, it does deserve to be read in its entirety - nursing does not work in isolation.
Rumblings were already being made within the profession before publication: the need to identify an aptitude for compassion, and the ongoing measuring and monitoring of clinical skills, and rooting out poor practice were no surprise.
There is now very public evidence to address the poor reputation of selection, training and ongoing skill development within the profession with his call for leadership and accountability at all levels.
The value of healthcare support workers is recognised - but their variability without regulation is seen as extremely risky in ensuring safe and consistent care.
Unsurprisingly, the report has identified a need for the public to be made safer through a registration scheme for unregulated support workers, that encompasses training standards. Great news! Many of us will endorse this wholeheartedly.
Many of the suggestions, including inadequate staffing levels, will be welcomed from both within and outside the profession and will force providers of healthcare to be held to account at a very operational level. Just what the public and profession want to see: tales of stressed staff, poor continuity and chaotic wards has compounded high vacancy and sickness rates.
On a high note, the recognition of the specialist skills and commitment needed in caring for the elderly is credit to all nurses who have offered safe and compassionate care to this vulnerable section of the population. Having a specialist registration status, as has been suggested, takes this to another level that will certainly recognise the increasing demands of the complex needs of an aging society.
Yet again, through another public report, nurses will be stung by the criticisms - and the reputation of the profession will be further tarnished.
We need to listen to the wide-ranging public debate that will ensue over the next few weeks – and use the wretchedness and shame of the report to learn the lessons.
We need to have brave leaders that seize the opportunity to revitalise a bruised profession.
BA(Hons) PGCE RN RM RHV FWT NP
Nurse Adviser and Independent Trainer
As well as working on the Nursing in Practice advisory board, Marilyn is also Lead Nurse for a teaching PCT, supporting nurse-led services and the development of practice nurses and healthcare assistants. She enjoys being a respiratory trainer and a nurse opinion leader and is passionate about expanding and blurring nursing boundaries in primary care.
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