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Nurses 'must be rated on compassion and not just technical skills' amid fears that 'cruelty has become normalised'
Poor care is a 'betrayal of what we stand for', says nursing chief

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that 'coldness, resentment,
indifference, even contempt' were deep-seated in parts of the NHS

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UPDATED:

14:06 GMT, 4 December 2012

Nurses should be formally judged on how compassionate they are, their professional chief will declare today.

Jane Cummings claims nurses must not be assessed on their technical skills alone because 'poor care is a betrayal of what we stand for'.

In recent weeks parts of the NHS have been criticised over claims that 'cruelty had become normalised' – with patients badly neglected.

(File picture) Nurses will be rated on their compassion and not just their technical skills, according to their professional chief

(File picture) Nurses will be rated on their compassion and not just their technical skills, according to their professional chief

Listen, up doc: Empathy raises patients' tolerance of pain

A doctor-patient relationship built on trust and empathy doesn't just put patients at ease – it actually changes the brain's response to stress and increases pain tolerance, according to new findings from a Michigan State University research team.

The small study involved randomly assigning patients to one of two types of interview with a doctor before undergoing an MRI scan.

In the patient-centered approach, doctors addressed any concerns participants had about the procedure and asked open-ended questions allowing them to talk freely about their lives. The other patients were asked only specific questions about clinical information.

The participants then were placed in the MRI scanner and given a series of mild electric shocks, while looking at a photo of a doctor who they were told was supervising the procedure.

The scans measured activity in the anterior insula – the part of the brain that makes people aware of pain – in anticipation of the shocks and when they actually occurred.

The brain scans revealed those who had the patient-centred interview showed less activity in this region when they were looking at a photo of the interviewing doctor than when the doctor in the photo was unknown. Those participants also self-reported less pain when the photos showed the known doctor.

Lead researcher Issidoros Sarinopoulos, said: 'This is a good first step that puts some scientific weight behind the case for empathizing with patients, getting to know them and building trust.'

In her three-year strategy for nursing
– Compassion in Practice – Miss Cummings stresses the importance of
'The 6Cs' – care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and
commitment.

The Chief
Nursing Officer argues many patients have been disappointed by the care
they have received, saying staff must work towards 'a culture of
compassionate care'.

'While
the health, care and support system provides a good – often excellent –
service, this is not universal,' Miss Cummings will say in a speech to
health managers in Manchester today.

'There is poor care, sometimes very poor. Such poor care is a betrayal of what we all stand for.

'The
actions we are setting out – developed with nurses, midwives and care
staff – can change the way we work, transform the care of our patients
and ensure we deliver a culture of compassionate care.

'We must seize this opportunity to create a future where people are treated with compassion, dignity and respect by skilled staff who have the competence and time to care.'

The strategy follows comments made by
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, who said that 'coldness, resentment,
indifference, even contempt' were deep-seated in parts of the NHS.

Viv
Bennett, who co-wrote the strategy, said: 'Nurses, midwives and care
staff have a big role in preventing ill health and promoting good health
and wellbeing.

'This starts at the very beginning of life, giving
children the best possible start, and continues throughout its course.

'Our aim is to maximise the
contribution of all nurses, midwives and carers to improving the
public's health by making every contact count for health and wellbeing.

'As
our population lives longer, nurses and care staff are increasing
involved in supporting older people so the extra years can be healthy
years.

'This means working
across health and care boundaries to enable people to remain active,
connected and independent in their own homes, or another place of their
choice, for as long as they are able.'

The
strategy, which follows an eight-week consultation involving more than
9,000 nurses, midwives, care staff and patients recommends that staff
must be recruited and trained according to values as well as technical
skill.