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Compassionate Care

Volume 578: debated on Tuesday 1 April 2014

The Government have made it a key priority to restore a culture of compassionate care throughout our NHS. Ten thousand nurses and midwives will have taken part in a new leadership programme that champions patient-focused compassionate care. Pilots are testing whether all nurses should spend time on the wards prior to a nursing degree.

Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating NHS staff, who are shifting the priorities of the NHS culture towards compassionate care and away from a tick-box culture? Does he agree with Robert Francis, who says that compassionate care very often saves money?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Last week I was in one of the safest hospitals in the world, Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle, which has cut litigation claims by three quarters since it introduced safer care. We have fantastic hospitals in this country too, such as Salford Royal. The truth is that safer care is better value for money: it means that more money can be spent on the front line, not on litigation.

The Secretary of State is not showing much compassion towards hard-working NHS staff, who have a 1% pay rise. One year on from the top-down reforms, what does he think of the survey showing that 69% of front-line staff think his reforms are damaging patient care?

The most damaging thing for patient care would be a pay award, which the hon. Gentleman sounds like his is supporting, that would mean the potential loss of 6,000 nursing jobs from our front line. That would be incredibly bad for patients and incredibly bad for nurses. All nurses are getting a minimum 1% rise. That is the right thing to do. That is supported by the shadow Chancellor but not, apparently, by the shadow Health Secretary.

20. In a report published by the King’s Fund last month, South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust was highlighted as a leading example of compassionate care for the frail elderly. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the trust’s staff on the move away from tick-box targets, and visit the trust to see this new emergency care model in practice? (903439)

I much enjoyed a recent dinner where I had the chance to meet a consultant from South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust. One of the discussions I remember having with him was how inside the NHS the definition of success for a hospital was in the past too narrowly focused on targets and financial balance, and not enough on patient safety, compassionate care and clinical outcomes. He, and many other people in the NHS, welcome the change that this Government have made in the past year to change that balance.

Does the Secretary of State agree that compassionate care begins with being able to see a GP? In areas such as mine, GP appointments are increasingly hard to get. In fact, one practice has had its contract rescinded because of its failures. Does he now regret scrapping the target allowing patients to see a GP within 48 hours?

I am interested and rather astonished that the hon. Lady dares to mention the words “GP” and “contract” in the same sentence. It was Labour’s GP contract changes in 2004 that made it disastrously more difficult for people to see their GP and destroyed the link between patients and doctors by getting rid of named GPs. She will be pleased to know that from today we are reintroducing named GPs for the over-75s, which is big step forward in making it easier for people to see their GP.

Although the Secretary of State says that he is getting rid of tick-box targets, new targets are being introduced, including hourly ward rounding for nurses and the introduction of a requirement for nurses to undertake a year as a care assistant. Would it not be better to depend on the professionalism of the nursing profession?

That is exactly what we are doing. There is no target to introduce hourly rounding, but there is very good evidence from the hospitals that have it, such as Salford Royal, that it results in the buzzer going off less often, calmer wards and problems being nipped in the bud. People are given food and water before they feel the need to ask for it and we end up with much better and safer care. That is something the hon. Gentleman should welcome. We certainly want to work with the nursing profession to ensure we deliver that.