Three Midland health trusts have been criticised for not appointing a nursing director to their boards to champion patient care.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is urgently calling for Walsall, Sandwell and Solihull Primary Care Trusts (PCT) to create an executive director of nursing post with voting rights.
Dr Peter Carter, head of the RCN, has written to the three PCTs asking them to reconsider their position as a matter of urgency as they are the only trusts in the region that do not have a senior nurse in that pivotal role.
Patricia Marquis, director of the RCN in the West Midlands, said: “The survey shows that the majority of trusts in our region have demonstrated their commitment to listening to the voice of nursing at the top table and the overall picture in the West Midlands is positive compared to some other regions.
“Unfortunately, however, a minority of trusts have no executive director of nursing post in their governance structure with equal powers to, say, the director of finance.
“It’s not only nurses that find this worrying, patients would probably question it, too.
“Nurses are on the front line – the ‘canaries in the coalmine’ if things start going wrong with patient care.
“It is absolutely vital that their voices are heard at board level. In the context of the failings recently identified by the Healthcare Commission at Stafford Hospital, it is unacceptable that some PCTs risk disempowering the nursing profession.
“We are calling on the minority of trusts to follow the best practice of their counterparts elsewhere in the region by introducing an executive director of nursing on to their boards.”
In March 2009, the RCN undertook a survey of all PCTs in England to assess whether they had an executive director of nursing on their board.
Trusts were also assessed on whether the position held full voting rights; was full or part-time and required the holder to be currently registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council to practise as a nurse.