Campaign to show 'skill and compassion' of nurses

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Media captionThe Royal College of Nursing film shows patients shouting at nurses

A new campaign launched by the Royal College of Nursing aims to show the reality of nursing, and to explore the reasons behind failures in care.

The UK-wide promotion features ads on buses, and a website to show what a nurse's working day is like.

It comes after a series of devastating accounts of lapses in basic care.

The Patients Association says the bulk of calls to its helpline relate to poor nursing care - and that the solution is to boost numbers of support staff.

The campaign features a film - first shown at the RCN's Congress earlier this year - which depicts nurses administering drips, clearing up vomit and being shouted at by patients.

Dr Peter Carter, head of the RCN, said: "What we are doing today is showing the reality of nursing and how it takes both professionalism and compassion to be a nurse.

"It's time to celebrate the outstanding work nurses do on a daily basis, often in extremely difficult situations.

"We have all read the critical coverage of the nursing profession and we would never shy away from the cases of poor care when they exist."

Admin burden

He added: "When poor care does exist, there are often systematic reasons behind it.

"The campaign will also explore what these factors are and how they can be tackled.

"We want to paint an honest, realistic picture of modern day nursing."

Seven different areas of work will be considered as part of the campaign - including nurses' attitudes and behaviour, and how to improve staffing levels on hospital wards.

The RCN - the nurses' union - also wants to explore how the burden of paperwork and administration can be reduced for nurses.

It said it will also continue to push for the mandatory training and statutory regulation of support workers, such as healthcare assistants.

And it has commissioned Lord Willis of Knaresborough to continue his work looking at how nursing education could be improved.

Increasing strain

The Patients Association said its helpline is busier than ever logging complaints about nursing standards.

Vice chairman Dr Mike Smith, said: "Poor nursing care makes up the bulk of the concern we have to our helpline.

"The specifics are not being fed, not being watered, not getting adequate pain relief, not getting your sheets changed regularly when something drastic has occurred and - last but not least - not being treated with dignity."

Dr Smith said he accepted hospitals were under increasing strain, particularly in treating elderly patients with complex and multiple illnesses.

He said higher levels of support staff, or healthcare assistants, are needed.

Sir Keith Pearson co-authored a report into the how to improve care of the elderly, which said cost and staffing levels were no excuse for poor standards.

He told the BBC: "Compassionate values are just as important as technical skills when nurses are recruited.

"Nursing was always seen as a vocation, but we seem to have moved into a phase where the balance has shifted far more towards the academic capabilities - and not enough about an ability to demonstrate they're the kind of people who deliver dignified care."

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