Remember the lessons of Stafford Hospital and listen to Florence Nightingale: don’t let the same happen to two year olds!

February 11th 2013

The Francis Report on the scandals of Stafford Hospital was published last week, and unless you have never been in the care of the NHS, you will you not be surprised by some of the findings. I speak as an ex nurse, a patient, a friend and relative of patients in a variety of hospitals as recently as last week. Sadly, everyone I know can confirm evidence of poor caring and sloppy nursing care. I have yet to find fault with the emergency services, but it’s recovery on the wards – the very place which can make the greatest contribution to the patient’s recovery – that so often seems to slip. Florence Nightingale said:

Apprehension, uncertainty, waiting, expectation, fear of surprise, do a patient more harm than any exertion.

What would she have made of just one example of the unkindness my dear husband experienced recently I wonder? Recovering from a very traumatic operation, he got up one night to ask a nurse if she would move a particularly loud machine from the ward into the corridor, so he and the other patients could sleep and recover. ‘What about us? We have to put up with the noise out here.’ was her retort! It was never moved.

As Florence would have said:

If you knew how unreasonably sick people suffer from reasonable causes of distress, you would take more pains about all these things.

The Francis Report is full of infuriating jargon, weasel words and failure to stand up to the sacred cow (the NHS). People have indicated that laying blame would lead to scapegoating. Can you imagine this happening in any other sector? We would all be hung out to dry!

There are numerous interwoven problems that develop such culture that has, according to Jeremy Hunt MP, ‘crushed the compassion of doctors and nurses’. This is emblematic of a leadership that is so far removed, no one actually knows what is happening at the core; obsessive targets and a huge emphasis on qualifications leaves nurses thinking that plumping a pillow or having a friendly chat with a lonely worried patient is not their responsibility. We have all heard comments about why feeding patients, changing wet sheets or making someone comfortable is no longer the job of the qualified nurse. I remember the days when the wards were ruled by a rod of iron by the Nursing Sister, and we as nurses would be absolutely slaughtered if the ward was not pristine, the patients uncomfortable or the flowers not standing to military attention. It appears we have slipped to the other end of the continuum.

Now wake up Early Years colleagues and observe the parallels: if we go down the route of ‘the better the qualification the more two year olds‘, I predict we will see the same decline in care. Will children wait longer to have their nappies changed, noses wiped, or made comfortable? Will we have to cut short long and chatty lunches? Will we have reduced time to play, talk, cuddle and provide the loving engagement which is every child’s right? I suspect the answer to these questions will be yes. Never forget, care is the very backbone of education.

Be warned: look carefully at all elements of the More Great Childcare Report; open your eyes and see the implications. And once again, listen to Florence Nightingale on this matter:

Let whoever is in charge keep this simple question in her head… how can I provide for the right thing to be always done?

Would you want us to descend to the level of inhumanity seen at Stafford Hospital? Consider this thoughtfully when replying to the consultation. The consultation document is called ‘Consultation on Early Education and Childcare Staff Deployment’ and the submission form you need to complete can be found here.