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Suffolk nurse leads debate on personal care of patients

4 Jun 2019

A Suffolk nurse has led a discussion highlighting the important role that personal care plays in the health and recovery of patients.

Sarah Seeley, a nurse in Ipswich, argued that nurses should be more involved in assessing patients and prescribing the personal care they need. This would help ensure that patients are getting the right support with personal care tasks such as washing, dressing and help with eating and drinking which assist their overall return to health.

While Sarah said nurses were not the only ones who could deliver this care, by including it in what is defined as nursing the profession could have a greater influence over quality and ensuring patients’ needs are properly assessed. 

Nurses debated and passed the resolution at RCN Congress, which took place in Liverpool in May. 

Sarah, who is also chair of the RCN Suffolk branch, said it was time for nursing to play a greater role in personal care so it could “own it and influence it”.

“This doesn’t mean that all care has to be delivered by nurses. Health care assistants and other professional carers do a great job providing personal care day in and day out,” she said. 

“But if personal care was more often included in what we understand as nursing it would mean that nurses could use their knowledge and skills to assess patients’ needs, diagnose problems, prescribe solutions and monitor the quality of care.

“Other people could be trained to undertake the care but I think we need to recognise the role that nurses play in influencing the care they believe is necessary to support their patients’ long-term health needs.”

Sarah said hundreds of thousands of staff across the UK were involved in the delivery of personal care, providing vital support to those who need assistance to look after themselves. Personal care is already a regulated activity, meaning the agencies providing services have to meet national regulatory guidelines. 

“As a nursing body I think we need to reclaim the essence of traditional definitions of nursing so that personal care is included within that much more than it is currently. We can then play a bigger role in influencing that care and ensuring the best outcomes for our patients,” she added. 

Teresa Budrey, RCN Eastern Regional Director, said: “Nursing staff always have the needs of their patients at the forefront of their minds. Often this extends after they have left their care and being looked after at home or in residential facilities.

“The personal care patients receive plays a big part in their recovery and continued well-being."

The full Suffolk branch resolution debated at RCN Congress stated: “That this meeting of Congress calls on RCN Council to lobby the governments across the UK and all social care providers to recognise that personal care is nursing.”

Page last updated - 17/05/2021