When Compassion in Practice was published in December last year, I knew it was not going to be a document to gather dust. The vision and strategy for nurses, midwives and care staff was crafted by Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer at NHS England and Viv Bennett, director of nursing at the Department of Health and Public Health England, to address wide concerns in care across a range of health, public health and social care providers. And those concerns are expressed by our professions as much as patients, the public and people in our care.
Compassion in Practice is inclusive, there can be no one in nursing, midwifery, care or support who can possibly think this isn’t about them or the service they work in. The 6Cs of care, compassion, competence, communication, commitment and courage resonate. Whatever you may think of them, and there have been a range of colourfully expressed views from our professions, they make sense to the people we serve.
I was talking to supervisors of midwives recently at an event where members of Maternity Services Liaison Committees, lay and service users, were present. Despite a ripple of cynicism from the professionals about the 6Cs – motherhood and apple pie, are they really necessary? – the service users, the mums, were very clear – these values are what they expect day in, day out. Yes, it’s demanding to keep going in difficult circumstances, but when people are vulnerable and in our hands they expect, without quibble, consistently high standards. Quite rightly. We might not always achieve perfection, but strive for it we must. And if we are being let down by the system we need to turn to strong leaders to navigate our way through.
So the time has come for action. The Compassion in Practice action plans have been published on the NHS England website. For me this brings a new opportunity to focus on public health nursing and midwifery and nursing in social care. Compassion in Practice is about all care settings. As nurses, midwives, care and support staff, we can do so much more in the area of prevention and early intervention and this gives us the opportunity to challenge and stimulate change. All six action areas are detailed and will apply across health and social care. I believe with so much organisational change this year Compassion in Practice will be a valuable vehicle for us to lead change, to be in the vanguard of what the people in our care expect of us.
The Compassion in Practice action plans respond to the Francis Inquiry findings by setting out to rebalance our culture of care and build a health and social care system that reinforces that care is our business.