Carwyn Jones rejects nurses 'too busy to care' claims

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First Minister Carwyn Jones has rejected claims that nurses are too busy to show compassion to patients.

He spoke after Labour MP Ann Clwyd said her husband experienced a lack of care while in hospital before he died.

Ms Clwyd, the Cynon Valley MP, said her husband died "like a battery hen".

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Wales head said its members do not have time to care due to pressure, but Mr Jones said he did not accept nurses were "too busy to be compassionate".

Last week Ms Clwyd criticised the "indifference and contempt" of some nurses who treated her husband Owain Roberts at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff. She has said she will campaign for greater compassion and care.

RCN Wales director Tina Donnelly told presenter Huw Edwards on BBC One Wales' The Wales Report that she hoped Ms Clwyd had raised her concerns with the local health board so that an investigation can take place.

Asked about a lack of time to care she said: "We cannot engage in the nursing profession without having compassion and care, that's the very reason we're nurses."

Concern about that lack of time prompted her to launch a "time to care" campaign two years ago, she added.

Image caption,
MP Ann Clwyd says she will start a campaign for greater compassion and care in nursing

"I didn't do that on the back of a hunch things weren't going right. I did it on the back of a huge number of our membership telling us they simply did not have time to care.

"They didn't have the time to undertake the duties which they were trained to [do], and it caused them distress."

"We've launched it for the longer term and sad to say I am concerned about the staffing levels in many of Wales' hospitals at particular times."

Staffing levels are set when wards are at about 85% occupancy, but a number of wards run at 100% occupancy, she said.

This affects how nurses can carry out their duties, she added.

"[It's about] when you talk to a patient, when you're doing an admission, when you're doing their observations, when you're wanting to know what they need to rehabilitate to get them back into the community.

"This takes time and if you're running against time and constantly pressurised it does give the impression to patients that you don't have time for them."

Complaints about lack of compassion and nurses being cold should be reported and dealt with by management or professional groups, she said.

"It's up to every individual to make sure that when you observe care which is less than you expect to be giving or receiving then I think you have a duty of care to report that," she added.

'Not mutually exclusive'

However, speaking to journalists in Cardiff, the first minister said: "One thing I am concerned about is some of the comments that have been made this morning - not by Ann herself - that suggest that nurses are too busy to be compassionate.

"I don't accept that at all. The two things are not mutually exclusive. There are plenty of nurses out there who are compassionate, the vast majority.

"And I think they would be surprised to learn that somehow the nature of their work means they can't be compassionate any more.

"That's not my experience and if the system has caused problems for Ann then her concerns need to be investigated very thoroughly.

"But I can't accept that somehow nurses have become less compassionate because they are working very hard - they have always worked hard."

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