The head of a scandal hit NHS hospital has claimed there is something “fundamentally wrong” with nurses and the nursing profession.Sir Stephen Moss, chairman of Stafford Hospital and himself a nurse for 40 years, said that “too many patients and families” are being let down but that staff shortages are not to blame.
He suggested the problems lie in the training nurses receive as well as the way they work on hospital wards, and plans to lead a new campaign to improve standards.
His comments come in the wake of a series of scandals at NHS hospitals in which vulnerable patients have been neglected with sometimes fatal consequences.
At Stafford Hospital, which Sir Stephen arrived at in 2009 to help turn around its fortunes, as many as 1,200 patients are feared to have died unnecessarily over three years as managers became preoccupied with cost-cutting.
A recent report by the Health Service Ombudsman condemned the NHS for failing to meet “even the most basic standards of care” for pensioners, while spot inspections by the Care Quality Commission have uncovered geriatric wards where doctors are prescribing water to elderly patients to stop them becoming dehydrated.
Unions and professional bodies have suggested that the problems are down to staff being over-worked or forced to focus on Government targets rather than providing personal care.
But other commentators have claimed that too much care is now provided by cheap healthcare assistants, who do not need to meet national training standards and who are not regulated by a professional body; or that nurses think they are “above” feeding and cleaning patients now that they have to be university-educated.
In an interview with a local newspaper, Sir Stephen said: “Not everything in nursing is bad, but after the events at Stafford Hospital, the recent concerns at New Cross Hospital [in Wolverhampton, where high death rates are being investigated] and others around the country you can’t tell me there isn’t an issue here that needs addressing and we have to do something about it.
“There is something fundamentally wrong with the nursing profession and the way it is focused at the moment. We are getting a lot right but we are also letting down too many patients and families. We can’t just stand by and not do something.”
Sir Stephen is drawing together a group of seven “big hitters” in the health service to suggest ways that hospital care can be improved.
Their plans, to be disclosed in September, will focus on how nurses can be trained for “the real world of the NHS rather than the classroom”.