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11th August 2014

Nurses are the Heart of Healthcare

Black medical doctor smiling isolated on white background doctorCaring is the essence of nursing

When the media talk of clinicians they often refer to doctors, but more focus needs to be put on the fantastic nurses that we have in the NHS. With the increase in numbers of elderly patients, and rising long-term conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, it means the spotlight is more on care rather than cure. Patients usually want to see their doctor for immediate medical concerns but nurses play a huge part in patient care, mainly because in they are the ones who have regular contact with patients.

“Caring is the essence of nursing” - Jean Watson

“Nurses are the heart of healthcare” - Donna Wilk Cardillo.

What makes a good nurse?

Nurses in general practice play a vital role in the life of patients and it’s important to recognise the enormous responsibility that they have. When recruiting a new practice nurse it’s not just about what they have to offer the practice, but more importantly what they have to offer to patients. Along with their qualifications nurses must have the people skills to be compassionate and empathetic. They need to understand the feelings of their patients, and, very often, the patient’s fears about what their medical condition means to them and their family. Great nurses are selfless. They may run late with their clinic just to make sure that a patient’s needs are met. This may mean that they end up with 20 minutes rather than 60 minutes for lunch, but a great nurse will ensure that the same standard of care is given to each of their patients.

To provide safe care you need enough staff

Despite every effort to provide excellent patient care things do go sadly wrong. There has been huge media coverage of poor clinical performance, as the Stafford Hospital scandal demonstrated. There is greater focus on nurse performance, and this in itself can cause huge pressure. Most reports state that safe care is compromised by inadequate levels of staff and how crucial staff-patient ratios are to patient outcomes. There is much debate over what constitutes appropriate levels of nursing staff in hospitals, but I believe in general practice we respond well to patient needs and external pressures to meet demand. Health Select Committee Chairman Stephen Dorrell says: "It seems entirely true that we will only deliver the right standards of care with the right number of people". General practice must be getting something right though, because you usually only hear that patients can’t get an appointment with their doctor, not often that they can’t get to see the nurse.


In order to deliver a proportionate, risk-based system to provide greater public confidence in nursing staff all nurses will require ‘revalidation’ by December 2015. Revalidation is aimed at raising standards of care and promote a culture of continuous improvement. Revalidation will require every nurse and midwife to confirm that they:

  • Continue to remain fit to practise by meeting the principles of the revised Code.
  • Have completed the required hours of practice and learning activity through continuing professional development (CPD).
  • Have used feedback to review and improve the way they work.
  • Have received confirmation from someone well placed to comment on their continuing fitness to practise.

I’m sure this process will demonstrate the excellent standard of nursing care that is already being provided, whilst identifying concerns that can be addressed quickly for the benefit of patient care.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Alison Lowerson

GP Specialist

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