Headlines: April 11th, 2003

Modern matrons are changing the culture of the NHS by empowering nurses and challenging professional boundaries. The job of matron was re-introduced two years ago following its disappearance thirty years earlier. The modern matrons, with a remit for hands on management, impressed the Boards of NHS Trusts and appointments to the new role were made at four times the expected rate. There are now over 2000 matrons in post. The traget is to cover all wards in the NHS by the end of 2004.The new role was introduced to provide strong leadership on wards and be highly visible and accessible to patients. Matrons lead by example in driving up standards of clinical care and empowering nurses to take on a greater range of clinical tasks to help improve patient care. They have the power to get the basics right for patients, such as clean wards, good food, and quality care and they respond promptly to grievances and complaints.

They have been particularly successful in accident and emergency units, cutting waiting times by up to 60%. This has been achieved in ways such as refocusing the working practices and encouraging a constant flow of ideas for change from the staff. It is now planned to put matrons in the forefront of a change programme to improve patient experience in accident and emergency units. Trusts are being encouraged to appoint matrons for all units and as an incentive each unit with a matron will receive an additional budget of 10,000 pounds. Among the projects they will be encouraged to take up are redesigning reception areas.

A research project will be launched shortly to assess the impact of the role of matrons. The Royal College of Nursing has welcomed the project.