Following a series of critical reports and ahead of the findings of a public inquiry into care at Stafford Hospital David Cameron said he wanted to make improving care one of his top priorities for 2013.
The Prime Minister said there is still a long way to go to raise standards of care in the NHS in England but he said progress was being made, referring to initiatives that were being introduced. One example was a new “friends and family” test starting in April and extra ward rounds being put in place.
The “friends and family” test involves all hospital patients being asked whether they would recommend the place they were treated in. Mr Cameron said “of course this is a complicated issue and there’s no one single answer. We have an excellent NHS, with very high standards of nursing care in most of our hospitals, but recent examples – Stafford, Redditch, others – have shown that we have got a problem in some places“.
In time the test will be rolled out to other parts of the health service, including GP surgeries, district nursing and community hospitals.
Clare Gerada, Chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs said, although feedback is important “the NHS isn’t Facebook, and healthcare isn’t a commodity like eating in a restaurant. And we must make sure that we don’t confuse issues around the NHS such as shortages, with actually the care that patients get from the staff that look after them“.
David Cameron said the initiative was part of a drive to improve care standards in 2013, which also involved a focus on dementia, extra training for staff and more nursing rounds. He said “we still have a long way to go to raise standards across the NHS and get rid of those cases of poor and completely unacceptable care that blight some hospitals and homes. I want every hospital to give every patient the best possible care”.
However, he went on to say that “we shouldn’t underestimate the pressure the nurses are under. One in four beds now are filled with people with dementia. That’s a huge change that’s taken place in our country and our health service, so we need much more training to deal with people with dementia. So I don’t underestimate the pressure nurses are under, and the difficulties of doing their job, but we do need a greater emphasis on standards of care and compassion in our hospitals and care homes“.
Mr Cameron’s comments come after both the CQC and Patients Association published reports raising concerns about the quality of care. The CQC warned that services were struggling in areas such as dignity and respect, nutrition, care and welfare. The Patients Association also published a dossier of 13 “appalling” cases of care given to NHS patients to highlight what it said was a wider malaise.