The chief nursing officer and director of nursing have published a three-year vision and strategy for nursing, midwifery and care staff that aims to build the culture of compassionate care in all areas of practice.
Called Compassion in Practice, it has been drawn up by Jane Cummings, the chief nursing officer for England (CNO), based with the NHS Commissioning Board, and Professor Viv Bennett, director of nursing at the DH.
The strategy was unveiled at the CNO's annual conference in Manchester, attended by 400 senior figures from the caring professions. It follows an eight-week consultation involving over 9,000 nurses, midwives, care staff and patients.
Actions include: recruiting, appraising and training staff according to values as well as technical skill; regularly reviewing organisational culture and evidence for staffing levels; doing more to assess patients' experience; and helping staff make every contact count for improving health and wellbeing.
Specific measures include supporting all nurses with evidence and training to make every contact count for improving health and wellbeing; recommending trust boards carry out and publish reviews of their organisational culture, with feedback from staff and patients; recommending trust boards publish information on evidence based staffing levels at least every six months with an explanation of how they impact on quality and discussion at public board meetings; developing patient experience measures for children, young people and vulnerable adults in all settings including those with dementia; identifying patient experience measures that can be used between settings and sectors; developing a new leadership programme for ward managers, team leaders and nursing directors that is based on values and behaviours; and ensuring that recruitment to university undergraduate programmes is based on values and behaviours, as well as technical and academic skills;
Ms Cummings said: 'Being a nurse, a midwife or a care worker is an extraordinary role. We all came into these roles because we wanted to make a difference to the people we care for and support.
'We care for people in their own homes, in communities, hospices and in hospitals. We are proud to be part of a remarkable health and care service that does make a difference to people's lives each and every day.
'But the context for health care and support is changing. Most significantly, with people living longer, we have a greater number of older patients and people to support, many with multiple and complex needs.
'And while the health, care and support system provides a good - often excellent - service, this is not universal. There is poor care, sometimes very poor. Such poor care is a betrayal of what we all stand for.
'The actions we are setting out - developed with nurses, midwives and care staff - can change the way we work, transform the care of our patients and ensure we deliver a culture of compassionate care.
'We must seize this opportunity to create a future where people are treated with compassion, dignity and respect by skilled staff who have the competence and time to care.'
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: 'For the vision to be successfully realised it will need to be embraced not only by nursing staff, but also by employers. It needs to be supported by the right level of education and training and nurse leaders at all levels will need the right support and resources to ensure the vision becomes a reality. It is also important to recognise staffing levels have a real impact on patient care, and if staff have unmanageable workloads then the quality of patient care will inevitably suffer.'