Nurses have been reminded of their professional responsibility to ‘speak up where necessary’ as health and care services face ‘another busy winter period’.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), England’s chief nursing officer (CNO), the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the General Medical Council (GMC) have penned a letter to health and care staff this week, recognising the ‘challenging situation’ currently facing services.
Nurses and colleagues were thanked for their efforts and contributions to patients and the public and highlighted the particularly difficult past few years amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
With ‘increasing demand’ and newly announced industrial action by junior doctors in the coming weeks, the leaders said it was ‘likely that there will be further challenges in the months to come’.
The letter added: ‘We are confident all clinicians will continue to respond and carry out their duties professionally, informed by the values and principles set out in our respective professional standards.
‘But we also understand there will be concerns about working under pressure, and that you and your teams may need to depart from established procedures on occasion to provide the best care.’
As has been the case in past letters from the nursing regulator and CNO, the letter assured nurses and colleagues that their ‘professional code and principles of practice are there to guide and support your judgments and decision-making in all circumstances’.
‘This includes taking into account local realities and the need at times to adapt practice at times of significantly increased pressure,’ they wrote.
‘In the unlikely event of a complaint to your professional regulator they will, as is their usual practice, consider carefully whether they need to investigate.
‘If an investigation is needed they will consider and take into account all relevant factors including the context and circumstances in which you were working.’
In addition, the letter goes on to highlight the responsibility of NHS services and healthcare leaders to ‘ensure that all clinicians working in their organisations are well supported, and that channels for raising and acting on concerns remain open and accessible to all staff’.
‘Your professional code and duty of candour are there to support you to speak up where necessary, in the best interests of the public and people receiving care,’ it added.
Nurses were also reminded to ‘look after’ their own health and wellbeing and were encouraged to ‘seek support’ from their organisations if needed.
Closing the letter, the leaders thanked all health and care staff for ‘the large amount of work that has already been done to prepare for winter and to ensure the best possible care for those who need it’.
They also asked colleagues to ‘keep encouraging eligible frontline team members to come forward for their winter vaccines’.
‘Whether you are providing direct care, supporting colleagues or leading services and teams, all contributions are essential components of providing the best possible support and care to the communities we serve,’ the letter added.