Sunday, 20 January 2013

Caremakers – the NHS must make sure this isn’t an opportunity missed.

I fear for the future of nursing. Angels or devils, nurses are the front line staff who define the patient experience. The Royal College of Nursing’s new 6 C’s initiative spells out the danger signs in patient care. Anyone interested in care will have already heard of  the 6 ‘values and behaviours’ defined by the RCN - Care, Compassion, Commitment, Courage, Communication and Competence. One could argue that these should all be a given, not some new idea. What nursing needs is clear leadership at ward or unit level, not more sound bites and jargon.

What makes a good care experience? A well run ward. What makes a well run ward? A good leader. What does a leader need? Teams with clearly defined roles.

A family member recently experienced NHS care and felt that there were plenty of nurses on duty, but care was not great. He was left bleeding profusely and choking on the blood while the A & E nurse handed him some paper towels and then went back to reception to chat. It's easy to blame staff numbers for poor care but nursing shortages are not always the cause when standards slip.  

As I have blogged often, for every bad care experience there are multiple stories of all 6C’s way above and beyond the call of duty. But how can we bring this back to be the norm and not judge basic care as a luxury?

One suggestion is that 1000 ‘caremakers’ posts are created. ‘Great’ - I thought until I read that this role would be extended to experienced nurses. Ahem – isn’t this a bit like saying from now on we are going to make sure that all our bus drivers can drive a bus?

Just because nurses are now highly qualified and hold expert medical knowledge doesn’t mean they no longer give care. The same should apply to doctors and therapists – we are all in the business of care.

I thought that the fantastic games makers from the 2012 Olympics were going to be the inspiration for a new breed of volunteer within the NHS. People who could take care of the little things that mean so much while the clinically qualified spend more time on medical care and treatment. An example of this would be a cheery person at the ward reception who could answer relative’s questions such as ‘when will the doctor do his round or where is the hospital shop?’ Someone who can quickly find a nurse if one was needed. How often have you visited someone in hospital and no single qualified person can be found? At least a well-trained volunteer could go behind the scenes and ferret out anyone who was needed. We have heard of stories where the elderly are left with their meals out of reach or unaided even though they can’t pick up a fork. How lovely to have the equivalent of a meals on wheels type kindly soul to make sure patients eat and drink sufficiently and their personal needs are catered for.

 Caremakers? Great idea for carefully trained volunteers. Very different from Caregivers - all medically qualified people should be caregivers as a matter of routine.



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