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Government Francis report response just 'a start' for RCN

The government's announcement that 3,700 extra nurses will be hired in the wake of the Francis report does not go far enough, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). 

The government has accepted 281 out of the 290 recommendations Robert Francis QC made in his report about the Mid Staffordshire Hospitals scandal. 

From next April, hospitals will publish staffing levels on a ward-by-ward basis, together with the number of shifts meeting safe staffing guidelines. 

Experts will be asked to advise the government on how to improve reporting of safety incidents, including whether the statutory duty of candour on organisations should cover incidents of death and severe harm, or death, severe and moderate harm.

And as Nursing in Practice reported earlier this week, there will be a new criminal offence for willful neglect. 

But Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “The announcement that 3,700 extra nurses are to be hired is a start, but our recent Frontline First report revealed that there are nearly 20,000 nursing posts left unfilled. 

“What we need now is an immediate boost to nursing numbers as part of a longer-term approach to workforce planning, with increased nurse training places so that trusts are able to recruit more nurses when they need to without having to rely on overseas workforces.” 

"We also welcome the focus on consistent training for health care support workers through the Care Certificate. Although we remain convinced that the mandatory regulation of all health care support workers is the most effective way of protecting patients, the announcement today is an important first step.” 

'Near miss'

Health professionals will have to be candid with patients about all avoidable harm and the guidance will make clear that obstructing colleagues in being candid will be a breach of their professional codes. 

Speaking up quickly may also be considered to be a mitigating factor in a conduct hearing and this will further encourage individual candour. 

“Near misses” of serious harm will also be subject to a professional duty of candour, fostering an NHS culture in which reporting and learning from mistakes is the norm.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Today's measures are a blueprint for restoring trust in the NHS, reinforcing professional pride in NHS frontline staff and above all giving confidence to patients. 

“I want every patient in every hospital to have confidence that they will be given the best and safest care and the way to do that is to be completely open and transparent.”

Nursing and Midwifery Council chief executive Jackie Smith said: “We welcome the emphasis on the duty of professionals around candour. The nursing code already sets out clear commitments to be candid with patients and their families about their care, to respond appropriately to complaints, and to escalate concerns, in a timely way.” 

“We will work with other regulators and prepare guidance on candour around near misses. We will also make clear that a professional obstructing candour or raising concerns can be a fitness to practise issue.”