Are Nurses Responsible for Nursing Care Negligence? No!

Are Nurses Really Responsible For Nursing Care Negligence?


The recent experiences of the Labour MP Ann Clwyd whose husband died in poor conditions whilst in an NHS hospital has brought on an avalanche of press reports which allege that nurses are uncaring and lacking compassion and that nursing as a profession has somehow lost its soul. Is this really the case?

The answer is no- but it is worthwhile examining why it is that these reports have come to light now and what it shows about the agenda the Government has for the NHS at present and how this affects the whole problem of nursing care negligence.

The first point is that press reports about the vast majority of caring compassionate and responsible nurses are not news- it happens day in and day out at every hospital in the country and is largely unreported. A story of a harrowing stay in hospital is news – quite rightly so in one respect but not in giving a balanced picture of what is happening in most cases.  So why do the press persist in such reporting?

The fact is that the press are not balanced and do not look at the underlying reasons why such behaviour- rare though it is – comes about. The press prefer black and white stories that confirm their own stereotypes.

The reasons why such problems occur are more complex but as a summary I would suggest the following:

  1. Management: increasingly over recent years management has been recruited from outside the health service and whilst this might allow them to balance the books more effectively it does not mean that they have any insights as to how best to manage wards and services for the best interests of the patients
  2. Spending Cuts: Since 2010 some 4,500 have lost their jobs and this is likely to continue for the next 2 years at least. Such understaffing means that the time available to nurses to carry out the small tasks that demonstrate compassion and caring is simply not available.
  3. Increasing privatisation: the recent Government changes will undoubtedly speed up the process of privatisation of services within the NHS despite what they say to the contrary. The effect of privatisation is to divide up tasks into ever small packages of work which are then handed to the cheapest bidder. The overall effect of this is that the joining up of services in the system- so vital for its smooth running- is lost.

For these reasons it seems unlikely that nurses have suddenly become compassionless robots- a bad system is more likely to blame.

Does this mean that nothing can be done? I would suggest that it is vital that if a relative or carer suspects nursing care negligence then they seek legal advice. If necessary a claim can be brought which will bring the appropriate failures of the system – not the nurses- more to account. The more this is done the more likely it is that the press stereotyping and distortions can be properly challenged.