SCOTLAND’S most senior nurse has apologised for offending NHS staff in an outspoken blogpost highlighting rude behaviour on the wards.
Professor Fiona McQueen, Scotland’s chief nursing officer, criticised laziness and rudeness among some staff in the New Year’s message, and described an incident where a patient who had wet the bed was told they would be called “pishy pants”.
She also described staff “skipping off for a break” while patients were in need of care.
The comments have sparked debate and the trade union Unison has written to Prof McQueen to complain about her claims, which it said were demoralising for front-line staff.
Prof McQueen told The Scotsman she had not meant to upset hard-working nurses but stood by her comments as a challenge to the profession to improve standards.
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She said: “I am incredibly proud of the work that is done within NHS Scotland by very hard-working nurses and midwives – as I said in my blog, I hear of care that is so good it is breath-taking – and if I have upset any of those nurses, midwives or their support staff I am very sorry. The intention of my new year’s message was to set out a challenge to us all – myself included – to make sure we get it right for every patient, every time.”
The examples of poor practice were “exceptional cases”, she added.
In its letter of complaint, Unison said that public confidence in nurses remains high, despite deep cuts, short staffing and relentless political pressure to work harder.
Some nursing leaders backed Prof McQueen, saying it was crucial for staff to feel able to speak out.
A Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland spokesman said: “We know there are instances of poor practice. This can be down to a number of reasons, so it’s crucial staff are able to raise their concerns, whether this is about a negative working culture, low morale because of being under immense pressure or, in a very, very few instances, poor individual conduct.”