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Taking action: nursing on the front line

Lynn Young
Primary Healthcare Adviser for the RCN

Lynn Young adds her view to the debate prompted by the findings of the Prime Minister's Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery in England ...

Apart from the impending general election, the current nursing headlines are dominated by the appalling stories arising from the inquiry into patient care at the Mid Staffordshire Hospital. On a more encouraging note, the report by the Prime Minister's Commission entitled Front Line Care was released at the beginning of March this year.1

Front Line Care is the result of many months of hard work carried out by the commissioners, and papers submitted by large numbers of people and organisations. Consultations took place with members of the public - including children - allowing everyone to voice their opinions on how they thought nurses should be and how they should behave.

As with any commission, it is not the report itself that will provoke fundamental change and significant improvement, but rather the action that takes place following publication. As expected, Front Line Care does not provide the nursing profession with any surprises, nor does it offer any radical suggestions on how we can rapidly discard a small but rotten element of nursing, thus ensuring excellent standards of nursing in all places, at all times.

Quality, quality, quality is today's health speak. Since 2001 when the NHS Plan was introduced, increased productivity has become the name of the game. In the main, success has been achieved - we no longer wait four years for a vital hip replacement, access to general practice has improved, and older people requiring cataract removals are speedily attended to on a daycare basis close to home.

However, there seems to be a growing consensus that while the NHS is successfully doing more then ever before, the components of quality are lacking in far too many healthcare settings. The Mid Staffordshire Hospital quality care standards were clearly abysmal within certain wards and the A&E department.

Whenever a miserable healthcare scandal takes place, the question is asked, "What action must we take in order for such things to never happen again?" The recommendations included in Front Line Care are not radical in any way, size, shape or form. They are simple and obvious without any reason for controversy or dissent. We must all join forces to ensure that the recommendations are rapidly implemented. Many of them will not require extra funding; in fact, successful implementation will save cash in the long run. The most expensive care is that which causes human misery and preventable death. High-quality care brings benefits to patients and staff, and is the most cost-effective service we can provide.

We need to ensure that Front Line Care is not discarded should we have a change of political party at the next election. The nation cannot afford such shocking levels of waste, and politicians need to understand that better patient care is our ambition, regardless of the regime in charge after the election.

It is imperative to the future provision of safe, competent and compassionate nursing for those of us currently working in the profession to take any action required to make nursing an attractive career for our brightest of potential students.
It is right and proper to finish this column with the words of Gordon Brown, from the launch of the Commission on 10 March 2010:

"Nurses and midwives are responsible for so much of what we have achieved over the last 10 years. They are experts who know best how the service can meet the needs of patients and their local communities. We must be bold in putting them in control and at the heart of our plans for a world-class NHS." l

1. The Prime Minister's Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery in England. Front Line Care: the Future of Nursing and Midwifery in England. London: Central Office of Information; 2010.