Nurses are to be asked to give feedback about the performance of their colleagues and seniors to contribute to appraisals, as part of a series of initiatives announced to improve nursing care quality.

NHS England chief nursing officer Jane Cummings announced plans for work on workforce planning, education, leadership and staff satisfaction on Monday. They are intended to implement proposals in her strategy, Compassion in Practice, published last December.

One proposal is the introduction of 360 degree appraisals.

It follows a recommendation in the Report of the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry that common standards be developed for nurse appraisals, including “360-degree anonymous appraisal by colleagues” and “feedback from patients”.

NHS England director nursing for quality improvement and care Juliet Beal told HSJ’s sister title Nursing Times that it planned to implement the recommendation in full.

Commissioners are likely to include the requirement for 360-degree appraisals in their contracts with providers from April next year, she said.

According to the most recent NHS staff survey results, 83 per cent of staff received an appraisal in 2012 however only 36 per cent thought they were well structured.

Professor Beal said: “There is lots of evidence to show if you do appraisals you have staff who understand what they are doing and feel valued.”

Royal College of Nursing policy director Howard Catton welcomed the proposal. He said it could help improve staff culture if handled correctly.

“You need to have a level of trust where people feel able to feedback upwards as well as reviewing feedback from patients in a way that is genuinely about improvement and does not result in punitive action,” he said.

NHS England said in a statement announcing the implementation plans: “Compassion in Practice is our joint strategy and will help us transform the care we provide, in all care and support settings, throughout England every day and for everyone.”

It said a new “national federation of nurse leaders” would “oversee delivery” of the plans. Those on the group include Ms Cummings, Department of Health director of nursing Viv Bennett, and NHS Trust Development Authority nursing director Peter Blythin.

Shifting strategies

Plans to implement the chief nursing officer’s strategy include carrying out a review of the impact of introducing 12 hour nursing shifts.

Many trusts have replaces shorter shift patterns with 12 hour shifts in recent years, partly in an effort to reduce costs.

Cash strapped Bolton Foundation Trust last week announced it was piloting a move to 13 hour shifts in a bid to save £1.5m, for example.

Professor Beal said the review would focus on which shift patterns were most appropriate for different settings.

“There is a concern that for some nurses in some areas working 12 hour might be a very long shift to work. Twelve hours is a very long time to do something which requires a lot of emotional labour.

“In some areas it might be perfectly acceptable but we don’t have the evidence base. We need to look at it to make sure we are really giving patients the best care and continuity.”

She said although 12 hour shifts could provide continuity for patients during their shift, they may not do so for patients staying for a long time in hospital.