A TEAM of new nurses has been hired to allow “mini-matrons” to patrol wards at the Royal Infirmary.
The 14 new workers will allow the senior charge nurses, who had previously had to offer care directly to patients, to work in a supervisory capacity at the hospital in a bid to drive up standards.
The measure is the latest to be brought in by NHS Lothian following the publication of a damning report into care of the elderly at the hospital, which highlighted 23 areas for improvement and just four areas of strength.
NHS Lothian nurse director Melanie Hornett said the move represented a “significant change”. She added: “Across 14 ward areas we will be adding an additional registered nurse so the senior charge nurse can be released to work in a supervisory capacity. We hope to see a significant difference from this – it’s quite a step forward.”
Among the failures highlighted in the Healthcare Improvement Scotland report were examples of patients’ dignity being compromised, while serious concerns over nutrition and the treatment of those with dementia also emerged.
Inspectors had to intervene themselves on some occasions after witnessing poor care, including a patient being left “uncovered and exposed” in a busy assessment area.
After the findings were revealed in October, NHS Lothian published an action plan, which included a review of nursing numbers, in response.
Labour MSP and shadow health secretary Jackie Baillie welcomed the move, saying: “NHS Lothian are now discovering that they can’t cut nursing staff without it impacting on patient care. I am very pleased that they are reversing some of the cuts that they have made to ensure there are more staff on the wards.”
The senior charge nurses lead nursing teams in single wards, rather than the larger areas overseen by traditional matrons. But allowing the senior nurses to work in the supervisory capacity has prompted comparisons with the role.
Margaret Watt, chair of the Scotland Patients Association, said: “We need someone to oversee things and people like the old matron style. It sounds like NHS Lothian are taking this seriously, and it’s time they did. A lack of staff is the biggest problem we have.”
In 2008, the role of the senior charge nurse was reviewed by the Scottish Government. It was recommended that those filling the positions should not have a specific patient caseload and be given time when they did not have specific duties.
But it is understood that because of pressure in wards at the Royal Infirmary, many of the senior charge nurses had been forced to carry out traditional nursing jobs.
Lynn McDowall, professional officer for the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Part of the role of senior charge nurses should be to act as role models for their team and inspire patient confidence by setting and maintaining high standards of care.”