Staff in NHS doctor jobs will be handed more responsibility for individual patients' care following the publication of new government-backed guidance.
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has developed the guide in close collaboration with patient groups, employers and nurses' representatives and NHS England, with the General Medical Council having also provided advice.
For the first time, it will make doctors responsible for the whole of a person's care during their stay in hospital, informing patients, carers, nurses and relatives which doctor is ultimately responsible for all aspects of that individual's care.
As well as having the name of the responsible consultant displayed above the bed of each patient, the guidelines also say a named nurse should be available to offer patients information about their care and to act as a primary point of contact.
The new recommendations come in response to the recent Francis Report into past care failings at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. It stated that if a named clinician were accountable throughout a person's treatment, patient safety and overall quality of care could be improved.
It will also help ensure that vulnerable patients are discharged only if it is in their best interests, with appropriate support from friends, family or carers, and when it is safe and clinically appropriate to so.
Professor Terence Stephenson, chair of the academy, said: "Some hospitals have already implemented a 'name over the bed' process and where they have, patients say they have more confidence that someone is taking overall responsibility for them. They also know who to go to if they have questions or if they think something needs to be done differently. This is vital if we are to drive up standards of care."
The guidance was produced at the request of health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is exploring a number of ways to bring greater accountability to NHS care. Efforts are also being made to make GPs individually responsible for coordinating patient care on a personalised level, even when it involves multiple services and specialisms.
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