Nurses could be struck off if they fail to escalate concerns about poor care or hide the truth about mistakes, under new rules unveiled by the profession’s governing body.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council has updated its code of practice for the first time since the Stafford Hospital care scandal and revelations about historic child sexual abuse on NHS premises.
In revised rules, nurses and midwives will be expected to “raise and, if necessary, escalate any concerns” about public safety.
“Be open and candid with all service users about all aspects of care and treatment, including when any mistakes or harm have taken place,” the new code says.
“Act immediately to put right the situation if someone has suffered actual harm for any reason or an incident has happened which had the potential for harm.
“Explain fully and promptly what has happened, including the likely effects, and apologise to the person affected and, where appropriate, their advocate, family or carers.”
Nurses who break their profession’s code of practice risk being struck off and banned from practising.
Citing a highly critical report into care at Stafford General Hospital, the Council said the code was being updated to keep pace with public expectations.
“The Code is fundamental to protecting the public. It sets out what patients want from nurses and midwives, and puts public expectations at the centre of professional practice,” Jackie Smith, NMC Chief Executive and Registrar, said.
“We last changed the Code seven years ago. Since then, the way that care is delivered has changed; public expectations have changed; and key reports like the Francis Inquiry have permanently altered the healthcare landscape. The revised Code reflects modern needs.”
Among concerns raised by the Francis Report into poor care at Stafford Hospital were claims that some managers only wanted ‘good news’ and that there was no sense of urgency in addressing problems with patient care.
As a result a culture in which bad care was tolerated built up on wards, it said.
Historic reports also recently came to light that NHS staff harboured concerns about the conduct of the abuser Jimmy Savile while he was on NHS premises – but that they never saw the light of day.
Last month South West London and St George's Mental Health NHS Trust apologised to a woman whose claim she was assaulted by Mr Savile in 1979 was ignored for decades.
The revision of the code of practice also touched on other areas. For the first time, nurses were also warned to only use social media “responsibly”, making sure to respect patients’ anonymity.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council is the independent regulator of the nursing and midwifery professions and sets standards for all nurses working in the NHS and beyond.
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