Welcome to my Blog. I hope you find the posts interesting, informative and perhaps even entertaining(!). I'll update this Blog with my responses to topical stories of the day, important news and tales of my travels up and down the UK, meeting our inspirational nursing staff.

The RCN represents almost 400,000 nurses in the UK and is the country's largest nursing union.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

The real picture

We will see from the papers and rolling news coverage today that nursing care has been criticised by the Patients’ Association.

Now, the examples of care that they describe in their report are totally unacceptable and I won’t for a moment defend poor care.

However, I believe that it must be made clear that whilst this report does provide some unacceptable examples of care, they are not representative of the healthcare service as a whole or the experience of the vast majority of patients.

This is reflected in the fact that last survey of patients by the Care Quality Commission found that over 90 per cent rated the care they received as good, very good or excellent.

Here at the RCN, we have urged patients and their families to raise their concerns if they encounter substandard care so that investigations can take place.

I said in a press statement today, everyone in the NHS must remain focussed on care, compassion and empathy - NHS and nursing values - in order to improve the quality of care for patients.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The health of our health workers...

The Interim Boorman Review has been published today and it exposes worrying facts about the health and well-being of NHS staff. Dr Steve Boorman, who led the report, found a large number of staff suffer from work related stress.

I must say that despite the fact these findings are deeply worrying, they are not surprising. NHS staff are routinely found to be some of the most stressed workers in Britain. A report in April found that NHS staff are four times more likely as people in other occupations to be absent from work due to stress. The data showed that in 17 trusts, stress and related problems made up 15% of all sickness absence in 2008.

The reports in the papers today point out that if the sickness levels in the NHS were reduced by one third, it would save £555 million. However, this problem isn’t just one of finances and efficiency savings – it’s about the health of the people who save lives and treat the sick. Investing in the health of NHS staff has an undeniable link to the delivery of quality patient care.

As I said in a press statement today, the NHS has a legal and moral duty to ensure that staff are protected from the work related causes of ill health and are given opportunities to improve their own health.

We’ve heard much over the last week about how much the NHS has done for the people of the UK. We need to ensure that the staff who do so much for us are given the treatment and support they deserve.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

A health service to be proud of...

As anyone who keeps an eye on international news will know, the debate on healthcare in the US has dramatically heated up, with both sides clamouring to be heard.

Over the last few weeks we’ve heard much from our friends across the pond about our own healthcare system. There have been a number of untruths and myths touted about how our system refuses to treat the old, denies care when it’s needed and considers cost before care.

I hope the truth is heard eventually and that President Obama’s proposals are not defeated by erroneous claims and fanciful misinformation. The NHS in the UK may have its flaws but it is an institution that we can be hugely proud of. It’s an organisation that has saved the lives of millions, irrespective of their age or salary.

As Mahatma Ghandi famously said ‘the best test of a civilized society is the way in which it treats its most vulnerable and weakest members’. I can only hope that those currently shouting down a fair system of healthcare for all heed this message.

Friday, 7 August 2009

De ja vu...

This commentary piece appears on the Telegraph website

When the nursing workforce reads that long term vacancies in the NHS have risen for the first time five years, I expect that they’ll feel an uneasy sense of de ja vu.

The statistics released show vacancies across the health service have increased, with no signs of the trend reversing. The situation today will worry some that we are returning to the shortages of the 1990s. Waiting lists were long, cancer screenings were delayed and the overall level of care to patients was far poorer than it should have been.

At a local level, every recent report into dire hospital failings has exposed worryingly low levels of nursing staff and a refusal to fill vacant posts, largely for financial reasons. This has led to terrible examples of healthcare and a poor standards for patients. Inadequate staffing levels can never an excuse for poor care, but they are a cause.

A leaked NHS planning document in early 2008 predicted a shortfall of 14,000 nurses by 2011. RCN figures have consistently stated that 200,000 nurses will retire over the next ten years and with no increases in recruitment, there will be no one to fill their shoes.

Put simply, nurses have been here before. When vacancy figures were last like this, they indicated dire consequences were to come. The past ten years has seen exceptional investment in the NHS and real progress for patients. Vacancy gaps like these threaten to undermine all this good work More must be done to recruit and retain nurses and politicians must realise that our health service is only as strong as the people on the ground.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Last orders please...

Today the RCN, alongside Alcohol Concern, the Royal College of Physicians and the Faculty of Public Health, released a survey of the opinions of public sector workers on alcohol abuse and regulation.

The results were clear: public sector workers believe stronger rules are needed and healthier options must be offered to consumers. It also revealed that the majority of doctors, nurses and police officers backed proposals by the Chief Medical Officer for a minimum price for alcohol.

Take a look at some of the findings –

62% think that there should be a minimum price per unit for alcohol to stop deep discounting in supermarkets, off-licences and shops

77% believe that price promotions in pubs, bars and clubs that encourage excessive drinking should be banned

94% say that customers should always be able to buy alcohol in smaller measures (e.g. 125ml wine, 25ml spirits) if they wish

Of those statistics, those in the public sector are most united over giving drinkers a choice to consume less alcohol. It seems absurd that at the moment people can’t always have a small glass of wine if they want it.

As I said in today’s press statement, alcohol misuse is our national disgrace. We have some of the worst alcohol abuse figures in Europe and it’s about time real action was taken.

Our message is clear – there must be tighter regulation on the sale, labeling and advertising of alcohol and what’s more - people must be given healthier options and alternatives.

We need to call time on our dangerous drinking culture and we need to do so now.

I would like to hear what you think, so make a comment below or tweet your views to me at www.twitter.com/drpetercarter