DAVID Cameron was given a message when he visited hospital patients in Blackpool: “Give the staff a pay rise!”
Pensioner Eric Cranston made the request to the Prime Minister who was at Blackpool Victoria Hospital to launch a nationwide initiative to drive up nursing standards.
The 83-year-old retired seaman from Fleetwood, who was admitted after suffering chest pains, chatted to Mr Cameron about the care he had received on a ward for the elderly.
Afterwards he said: “He asked me about the facilities and had I any complaints. I said I had one – the staff don’t get paid enough money.
“But apart from that everything could not be better – it is excellent.”
Mr Cameron was in the resort to set out the Government’s commitment to raising standards in the NHS.
He wants to reduce the burden of paperwork and free up nurses so they can carry out hourly rounds and spend more time at patients’ bedsides, while installing strong leadership in the form of matrons or ward managers.
Residents will also be able to carry out their own ward inspections and publish their results.
In November an independent review named Victoria Hospital as having some of the worst death rates in the country with 340 more deaths than predicted in 2010/11.
But the Prime Minister, who also visited a hospital in Salford, said: “The reason for being in Blackpool and Salford are we have two hospitals with really good records in nursing care. Hospitals that have done a huge amount to ensure patient care and are an example for the rest of the country to follow.
“The nurses here have been telling me hourly rounds are working, they are using a lot less agency staff and recruitment campaigns have been successful.”
Mr Cameron admitted some hospitals were failing to give proper care but added: “There is evidence that if you put in the right systems and empower nurses we can put these issues right.”
There would be no additional funding for nursing but the Prime Minister said hospitals like Blackpool were showing high standards could be achieved on existing budgets and he wanted to cut bureaucracy.
He added: “Nursing needs to be about patients not paperwork.
“Patients should expect nurses to undertake regular nursing rounds – systematically and routinely checking that each of their patients is comfortable, properly fed and hydrated, and treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
Simone Anderton, associate director of nursing at the Vic, said many of the initiatives were already in place but the Prime Minister’s endorsement would act as a springboard for even more improvements.
She added: “Some of the day to day routines we follow on a busy ward have been reviewed so being with a patient is part and parcel of what we do. We would welcome people to come and talk to us in terms of what their patient experience is.”
Practice development sister Samantha Woodhouse said: “We are really proud here in Blackpool to have the Prime Minister visit. A lot of the projects here are very nurse led so it was a great opportunity to showcase that to him.”
Blackpool North and Cleveleys Conservative MP Paul Maynard said: “Blackpool was chosen because they are already implementing so much of the Prime Minister’s nursing agenda, and I know the staff put the dignity agenda at the heart of their nursing practice.”
But Labour’s Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden accused the Prime Minister of going over old ground.
He said: “Much of what he is talking about is simply building on what already happens.
“Hourly nurse rounds are not uncommon and matrons have been in place since 2006 or 2007 when the previous Labour Government introduced them.”
Unions have also criticised the announcement.
Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: “All the research points to higher nurse to patient ratios delivering higher outcomes. Yet all over the country, nursing posts are being frozen, or even lost.”