Want to uncover poor practice? Then listen to nursing students

A new inspection regime got under way in England's NHS hospitals in autumn 2013 amid talk of a crack down on poor care standards and rooting out bad practice.

The previous inspection regime fell into disrepute in part because inspectors often lacked experience in the area they were scrutinising. So a midwife may be touring an acute surgical ward, while up the road a cancer nurse specialist was interviewing staff at a maternity unit.

It is a moot point whether inspecting hospitals is a worthwhile exercise. Isn't it a bit late to uncover poor care after the event? A preventive approach would make more sense.

But if we must have inspectors roaming the wards, it is essential that the organisation responsible – the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – taps into an invaluable resource: the nation's nursing and midwifery students.

Sir Bruce Keogh did just that when he carried out checks on 14 under-performing NHS trusts during 2013. In his report, he paid tribute to the students who joined the inspection teams, as they brought fresh eyes to stale clinical areas.

One of those students, Jane Philpott from the University of East Anglia, has told her story in Nursing Standard. I hope the CQC takes note.

About the author

Graham Scott is editor of Nursing Standard, published by RCNi