A parallel universe, 23 July 2013

Dave MundayBy Dave Munday, professional officer, Unite the union (in the health sector)

At the moment the Department of Health and NHS England are doing a mini tour (go if you've got the chance, there are 3 left in Bristol, Newcastle and Nottingham if you've got the time, you're quick and you live close by) of England to talk about the Francis enquiry. I pitched up at their Manchester event on Wednesday (17th July) and have to say at times I felt like I'd walked in to a parallel universe.

Don't get me wrong, it was all good stuff, putting the patient first, encouraging staff to speak up about bad practice, ensuring organisations have a supportive culture to highlight concerns. Who would argue with that? I certainly wouldn't as it's what I argue for everyday! I did put my hand up though after the first couple of speakers to own up to my cynicism.

You see the NHS England director of nursing @HilaryGarratt spoke about the work that chief nursing officer @JaneMCummings has led on the #6Cs (have a look if you haven't already). It went along the lines of [nurses] didn't have a narrative, a story to tell and a response but with the 6Cs they now do have. And it's not just for nurses!

My cynicism? It's just not true that big national bods haven't said all this before or that there isn't/hasn't been a narrative! I gave the most recent example that I could sight. Gordon Brown (you remember him?) held a Prime Minsters Commission on Nursing that reported on 2nd March 2010. It said:

"The Commissioners have spoken and listened to the views of many thousands of nurses, midwives, stakeholders and members of the public. This report highlights the major challenges identified and seeks to provide solutions in the form of a vision for nursing and midwifery in the 21st century."

It also said: "nurses and midwives must renew their pledge to society to deliver high quality, compassionate care – and must be better supported to do so by their employers". (I said this bit in my comment to the conference).

I also countered the view that staff are holding back from raising concerns. I gave the example of a members meeting that I attended the day before where an organisation is threatening to make 15 whole time equivalent staff redundant. This group had huge misgivings and concerns about the resultant quality of service and safety of families involved but after attending the organisation's board meeting to protest, they received a letter threatening that as they'd "broken their contracts of employment" they were lucky that the organisation wasn't taking legal action against them. I offered to provide the details but was advised that they couldn't comment on specific cases. Funny that after all the comments made already about the specific case of Mid-Staffs.

It's amazing who you bump in to though as after the session the chair of the board in the organisation came over to say that he knew nothing of the letter to our members and that he wanted a copy.