NURSES across the North-East are leading the way in the development of care.

An initiative was launched last year in County Durham and Tees Valley to highlight the importance of bedside manner to the 12,500 nurses who work in the area.

The chief nursing officer of England, Chris Beasley, was a speaker at a conference last week, celebrating the first year of the County Durham and Tees Valley Nursing Collaborative Project.

Speaking to more than 200 delegates, she said: "Putting care above all else is what patients expect from us.

"We have to recognise we are dealing with people; they are not machines. We have to treat them with honesty, dignity and respect so that every time we see them they feel like individuals."

Professor Beasley, who trained as a nurse in the 1960s, said medical staff from across the country are looking to the North-East as a good example.

A steering group was formed last year with representatives from hospital, primary care and mental health trusts.

A spokesman for Darlington Primary Care Trust said: "Hundreds of patients and carers were asked for their opinions about nursing care as part of a major audit. Patient notes were also scrutinised and steering group members observed hours of nursing practice."

The collaborative has drafted 15 basic standards nurses have to meet.

These include introducing themselves, involving patients and carers in planning and discussions, and helping patients to feel at ease.