I am sure that we can all think back to the day that we qualified as registered nurses. I have very little doubt that the pride and sense of achievement we had on that auspicious day is one that we all hold dearly to us, regardless of when or where we qualified.
This evening I have watched a programme that looks at the cases of five nurses, three of whom are due to be sentenced before Christmas and two who were found not guilty of ‘wilful neglect’ of elderly and often frail patients. The programme to which I refer, Week in Week Out, is based in Wales and examines current affairs affecting the principality, calling both Welsh Assembly, CEO’s of business and individuals to question for failings regardless of which sector those failings are occurring.
This evening’s programme looked at the cases of three families whose loved ones had died as a result of wilful neglect, apparently the three nurses who have been found guilty have admitted to this charge. The hospital in question has now been likened to that of the Mid Staffordshire Enquiry. Within the programme, the families of the patients suggested that the nursing staff were unaware that one of the patients was diabetic and seemed to flounder when the patient slipped into a diabetic coma. The case has heard how nurses falsified notes in that they recorded incorrect blood sugar readings, patients were left in wet and filthy beds, medication was not administered and the care that patients received was abhorrent. The chief executive of the trust was interviewed and asked how he remained in his post as chief exec despite the fact that his organisation has been the subject of a police enquiry resulting in 14 nurses being suspended and three awaiting sentence for wilful neglect. The chief executive answered by saying that he can quite understand why the families felt that the ‘buck’ should stop with him! But that he was intending to meet with the families to offer a full apology and to listen to their ‘concerns’ about the care that their loved ones received. The odd thing about this is that not one nurse was interviewed within the trust, not one manager has been held to account and the chief exec remains in post!!
I am in no way condoning substandard care – but at the same time it appears that the nursing profession is once again put at the forefront of such care without looking at the broader picture, in terms of:
· What were the staffing levels like?
· Where do the management sit in this situation?
· What infrastructure to inform clinical governance was in place?
The Mid Staffs Enquiry concluded that nursing care was not the issue on the wards, but rather a lack of communication between teams. Why don’t we hear about the multitude of fantastic care that goes on within the NHS – given by dedicated, professionals striving for excellence in the care that they provide to their patients?
Revalidation is upon us, and we must embrace it and not be scared of it – but why? The answer is because what we do as individuals and also as a collective, defines us and the profession we are all so proud to be part of. Dr Peter Carter OBE at a recent Nursing in Practice event talked about geese and the way in which they fly in formation. The geese at the front glide along while the ones at the back are flapping like mad to keep up. The key to this amazing site is that they work as a team – they swap when the front runners get tired, if one goose is unwell and has to leave the formation two geese will go with that one and either stay with it until it dies or recovers at which point they will re-join another formation. Geese will honk as a way of communication, to encourage each other and stay in touch! It is time that we as a profession start flying in formation, honk a little louder and look after one another a bit more. The nurses in question, if they have fallen out of formation, surely we should be examining why that happened, what failed them – arguably themselves, but I am yet to meet a nurse who got out of bed one morning and decided to wilfully neglect their patients!