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The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal
"The modern matron will run a group of wards"
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Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Matrons back on the wards
Matrons are being brought in to boost standards in the NHS
Matrons are to be brought back onto the hospital wards for the first time in 30 years.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn announced on Wednesday that 500 matrons - complete with special uniforms and badges - would be patrolling hospital wards in England from next April.

By 2004 there will be 2,000 matrons in post.

Mr Milburn said the modern-day matrons were an attempt to drive up standards in hospitals and prevent hospital infections, by ensuring hygiene standards are met on the ward.

Bringing back matron is a huge vote of confidence in the country's nurses

Health Secretary Alan Milburn

Matrons will earn up to 31,000 a year and will have powers over budgets, catering and cleaning as well as being in charge of nurses.

They will also have the powers to withhold payments from catering and cleaning services if they don't think they are giving the best service to the NHS.

Experienced staff

Experienced staff will be promoted into the 500 new posts, which are part of the extra 20,000 nurses the Government promised the NHS by 2004.

Each matron will be in charge of three to four wards and will be responsible for certain specialities like cancer, paediatrics or surgery.

Matron's key tasks
Lead by example
Ensure quality care
Increase hygiene standards
Ensure quality food
Make sure the elderly are treated with respect
Improve the wards for patients
Liaise with patients and relatives
Help prevent hospital acquired infections
Make sure nurses have more power

They will act as a liaison with patients and will ensure vulnerable patients such as the elderly get the best possible treatment.

There had been claims that some elderly patients were unable to eat their food after it was placed at the bottom of their beds out of reach.

Matrons will also ensure the elderly are treated with respect, referring to them as Mr or Mrs if they prefer, rather than their first names.

Making the announcement on a visit to Lewisham Hospital Mr Milburn said the Matron would ensure the NHS reaches the "gold standard" of quality care.

He said: "Matron will lead by example: setting the highest standards for nursing care.

"I want more staff working at the NHS frontline - and more power for frontline staff.

"Bringing back Matron is a huge vote of confidence in the country's nurses."

Resources needed

Christine Hancock, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said she welcomed the idea of a modern matron, but said she wanted to see the resources given to make this happen.

"Patients have been crying out for someone they know to be in charge on hospital wards.

"The idea of modern matron recognises that strong nursing leadership leads to better care and that when things go wrong, there is someone with the authority to put them right.

"Giving modern matrons enough staff, the right resources and control of the essentials of patient care - from good nutrition to clean wards and the right to be nursed with dignity - provides a strong blueprint for the future."

Chris Hubble, a ward sister at University Hospital Lewisham, London, where she is one of their 20 modern day matrons, said the new scheme would provide a focus for both patients and nurses.

She told the BBC: "I think the advantage for patients is there is someone visible on the wards on a daily basis if they have got a complaint or a concern. Someone they can easily refer to.

"From the nurse's point of view I think the modern matron is a career pathway for the nurse who still wants to remain at the bedside and have a clinical input."

Stephen Thornton, chief executive of the NHS confederation, said creating modern matron was an investment in management.

"Creating a modernised NHS needs high quality leaders. This idea is essentially an investment in management and leadership in the NHS and recognises the major contribution nurses can make to this modernisation."

Paul Burstow, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said a matron is vital to provide a focal point for nurses.

He said: "If Florence Nightingale were alive today, she would be walking the corridors of our hospitals looking for the person in charge.

"It is clear that responsibility for basic care, hygiene and feeding should be in the ward with matron."

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See also:

04 Apr 01 | Health
'Matron was a bit frightening'
05 Apr 00 | Health
Nurses' powers to be increased
20 Feb 01 | Health
Tories unveil NHS plans
04 Jan 00 | Health
Nurses ditch 'Carry On' image
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