Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Would-be nurses face hands-on stint

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says the move to give aspiring nurses hands-on experience will help 'inspire public confidence' in the profession
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says the move to give aspiring nurses hands-on experience will help 'inspire public confidence' in the profession

Aspiring nurses will have to work for up to a year as a healthcare assistant or support worker before they can apply to become a nurse, Jeremy Hunt is to announce.

The move will "give the public confidence" that people entering the profession can give compassionate care, the Health Secretary will say.

Mr Hunt will publish the Government's response to the Francis report into serious failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust which highlighted "appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people" at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2009.

As many as 1,200 patients may have died needlessly after they were "routinely neglected" at the hospital. Many were left lying in their own urine and excrement for days, forced to drink water from vases or given the wrong medication.

Robert Francis QC, chairman of the public inquiry into the "disaster" at the hospital, made 290 sweeping recommendations for healthcare regulators, providers and the Government.

Mr Francis concluded there was a "completely inadequate standard of nursing" offered on some wards at Stafford Hospital.

His report says: "The complaints heard at both the first inquiry and this one testified not only to inadequate staffing levels, but poor leadership, recruitment and training. This led in turn to a declining professionalism and a tolerance of poor standards."

Mr Francis called for an increased culture of compassion and caring in the nursing profession.

Mr Hunt hopes to change the culture by transforming the way nurses are recruited. Subject to pilot schemes, students seeking NHS funding for nursing degrees will become healthcare assistants or support workers either as part of their degree or as a prerequisite for receiving funding for their degree. The move will see aspiring nurses giving "hands-on" patient care, Mr Hunt will say.

If it is successful, ministers will see whether the measure should be "extended beyond nursing". Another aspect of the Government response will see the introduction of minimum training standards and a code of conduct for health and care support workers.

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