Wales politics

Ann Clwyd tackles prime minister on nursing standards

As politicians go, Ann Clwyd is a tough cookie. She has had to be. When she won Cynon Valley for Labour in the 1984 by-election she became only Wales's fourth woman MP and the first for a Valleys seat.

Two of the first three - Megan Lloyd George and Eirene White - were what might be called well-connected, illustrating the challenge facing Ms Clwyd in seeking the Labour nomination in Cynon Valley.

Tough, yes, but human too, as viewers will have seen in her interview with me about the care her late husband received during his time in hospital. Experience has told her that to change things, to get things done, you have to be prepared to make your views known, however distressing it may be.

She returned to the subject at question time today, her voice breaking with emotion as she raised the issue with the prime minister.

She said: "A universal healthcare system free at the point of delivery is what the overwhelming majority of the British people want, something which I remain firmly committed to.

"However, there are increasing complaints about nurses who fail to show care and compassion to their patients. What exactly will the prime minister do about that?"

David Cameron told her: "You speak for the whole house and the whole country in raising this issue and I know how painful it must have been with what she's witnessed in her own life and with her own family.

"I am, as you are, an massive fan of the National Health Service, an enormous fan of the fact that it is free at the point of use and that we do not produce a credit card when we go to hospital. My family has had extraordinary care from our NHS, but we do not do our NHS or our nurses any favours if we do not point out that there are some very real problems in parts of our health and care system.

"As a constituency MP, I see quite a few letters—particularly elderly people and their relatives—who are not getting the sort of care that is appropriate in hospitals. I set up a nursing care quality forum that I have attended myself to discuss these issues with nurses and nurse leaders. There is no silver bullet and no magic wand, but some simple steps, such as asking every hospital to carry out a friends and family test, asking the patients and the staff whether they would be happy for their family or friends to be treated in that hospital, can make a real difference.

"So can hourly rounding, which is not something to do with statistics but the idea that the nurse should be there by the bedside of elderly patients once an hour checking that they have had water and something to eat, that they do not have bedsores and that they are properly looked after. We should not have to dictate those things, but a proper conversation with our nurses—who are angels to a vast degree—can get the situation sorted out for all our relatives."