When, earlier this month, prime minister David Cameron proclaimed that 'nursing needs to be about patients, not paperwork' he provoked anger from nurses keen to point out that understaffing is at the heart of poor patient care.
Demanding 'an NHS which ensures that every patient is cared for with compassion and dignity in a clean environment', he detailed the need for nurses to conduct hourly ward checks to ensure patients are eating, drinking, being taken to the lavatory, and generally made comfortable.
While not condoning low standards, nurses warned that stipulated checks of this kind would actually create paperwork and would be unachievable with current levels of staffing.
One fact became apparent: the prime minister was wholly focused on hospital care, ignoring the fact that 90 per cent of nursing care takes place in community settings and that government policy is to transfer services out of hospitals and into the community.
It ignored the Queen's Nursing Institute's (QNI) November report, Nursing People at Home, which acknowledged that home-based care brings with it inherent risks for patients, nurses and service managers. The report contains stories of exemplary care, but also anecdotal examples of nurses who are rushed and disinterested; lack empathy or experience; and let down the patients in there care.
Will the PM's brand new Nursing and Care Quality Forum cover care in the home? It will do, says its newly elected chair, though she does not say when. Once again, the emphasis will be on improving hospital care, by introducing targets. However, the QNI is clear that the solution to poor care is person-based, not system-based.
Investment in the recruitment, training, ongoing development and retention of staff is the key to improving care in all sectors, but this requires long-term planning and investment so what are the chances of it happening?