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Investing in Nursing Programme

A pioneering scheme to give ward sisters and community nurse team leaders more time is set to improve care and create up to 40 new frontline nursing jobs.

 County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust is investing £800,000 on recruitment and training, which will enable ward sisters and community nurse team leaders to spend more time managing, leading and supervising staff and patient care.

 The move, announced today (Friday, May 11) ahead of International Nurses Day (Saturday, May 12), has been backed by national professional body the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) which praised the Trust as leading the region.

 Diane Murphy, Acting Director of Nursing at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, explained: "We have always provided high quality care to our patients across County Durham and Darlington, but there's always room for improvement.

 "Over the last decade, nursing has changed dramatically. We're seeing greater numbers of patients who require more complex care. To meet the increased demand, our ward sisters and community nurse team leaders have been spending up to 80% of their time delivering that care and just 20% directing it. We need to turn those figures around.  "Investing in ward sisters and community nurse team leaders will enable them to concentrate on improving the high quality care we provide to our patients. They will achieve this by having more time to manage their staff and patients."

 Mrs Murphy, who has 31 year's nursing experience, added: "This will have a significant impact on improving the care we are able to provide to our patients and we're the first hospital trust in the region to take this approach. Delivering great care is why we get out of bed in the morning and our new approach will help our nurses and community nurse team leaders deliver even better quality care."

 The Trust employs more than 80 ward sisters and community nurse team leaders who oversee around 3,000 nurses.  Each ward sister is in charge of a team of around 30 full time staff, caring for approximately 30 patients at any one time. To support their changing roles, all ward sisters will receive additional training.

 The plans have been welcomed by Ward Sister Allison Todd who manages 30 nurses on a medical ward at University Hospital of North Durham.  She said: "There's so much to do. With the new plans, I'll have more opportunity to coach my staff and identify the steps we need to take to make care better for our patients."

 Greta Jones, a Ward Sister who manages a 24-strong team of orthopaedic nurses at Darlington Memorial Hospital, agrees. She said: "When I started, it was very much about being a nurse but I also had management responsibilities. I had a group of patients to care for on top of being a manager and sometimes had to manage in my own time. "This will provide me with more quality time to spend with staff, support them and work with them. This will give them the confidence to become capable and confident in their own right, improving patient care."

 The Trust's plans have been backed by professional body the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

 Glenn Turp, Regional Director for RCN Northern Region, said: "The role of the supervisory ward sister is crucial, because it means that all patients will know exactly who is ultimately responsible for the overall continuity of their care throughout their treatment. The ward sisters will have clear managerial and supervisory responsibilities for both the clinical teams and the patients they serve. This clear accountability will be welcomed by both patients and the clinical teams, because it will deliver better leadership, better care, and also means that when patients or staff have an issue, there is a clear "go-to" person to get it resolved.  "County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust are to be congratulated for setting the benchmark high and the RCN hopes that other Trusts will now follow their lead."

'I have to compliment everyone on their pleasant persona and their expertise and knowledge. By the end of the 5 days, I did not feel as though I had been in a hospital ward and was very relaxed.'

Patient, Ward 16 Orthopaedics, University Hospital of North Durham