A long way to go on NHS Care

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Posted 04/01/2013

David Cameron says there is still a long way to go to raise standards of care in the NHS in England. This comes after a series of critical reports and ahead of the findings of a public enquiry into care at Stafford Hospital. Mr Cameron said he wanted to make improving care one of his top priorities for 2013. He insisted progress is being made, pointing to initiatives that were being rolled out.

He highlighted a new “friends and family” test starting in April and the extra ward rounds being put in place. The friends and family test which has already been announced involves all hospital patients being asked whether they would recommend the place where they were treated. Mr Cameron described it as a flashing light to alert hospitals if fewer people started replying positively to the test.  

“Of course this is a complicated issue and there is no single answer. We have an excellent NHS, with very high standards of nursing care in most of our hospitals but recent examples – Stafford, Redditch and others – have shown that we have got a problem in some places.”  

In time the test will be rolled out to other parts of the health service including GP surgeries, district nursing and community hospitals. Chairman of the Royal College of GPs Clara Gerava said feedback was important but questioned whether friends and family were proper judges of the NHS in all of its complexity. “The NHS isn’t Facebook and healthcare isn’t a commodity like eating in a restaurant. We must make sure that we don’t confuse issues around the NHS such as shortages, with the care that patients get from the staff that look after them,” she said.

Mr Cameron said the initiative was part of a drive to improve care standards from 2013 which also involved focus on dementia, extra training for staff and more nursing rounds which are now in place in 9 out of 10 hospitals. The Prime Minister said: “We still have a long way to go to raise standards across the NHS and get rid of those cases of poor and completely unacceptable care that blight some hospitals and homes. I want every hospital to give every patient the best possible care.”

He also praised the incredible job he knew many nurses were doing: “We should not underestimate the pressure the nurses are under. One in four beds are now filled with people with dementia. That is a huge change taking place in our country and health service so we need much more training to deal with people with dementia. I don’t underestimate the pressure nurses are under and the difficulties of doing their job but we do need a greater emphasis on the standards of care and compassion in our hospitals and care homes” he told BBC 5 Live. His intervention comes after both the Quality Care Commission and Patients Association published reports towards the end of last year raising concern about the quality of care.

The Quality Care Commission warned its inspections were showing that services were struggling in areas such as dignity, respect, nutrition, care and welfare. The Patients Association had published a dossier of 13 appalling cases of care given to NHS patients to highlight what it said was a wider malaise.

Julie Crossley, a clinical negligence lawyer at Ashtons Legal, comments: “This is obviously a step in the right direction but without getting political it is difficult to see how the best care can be provided when there are currently so many cuts in the NHS and other services. Hopefully this report will highlight some of the issues that friends and families do have whilst their loved ones are in hospital and these can be raised and addressed with the Trust.”


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