Through an analysis of several high-profile scandals in health care in the UK, this article discusses the nature of scandal and its impact on policy reform. The nursing profession is compared to social work and medicine, which have also undergone considerable examination and change as a result of scandals. The author draws on reports from public inquiries from 1945-2013 to form the basis of the discussion about policy responses following scandals in health care. In each case, the nature of the scandal, the public and government discourses generated by events, and the policy response to those failings are explored. These scandals are compared to the recent scandal at Mid Staffordshire Hospital. Conclusions are drawn about the impact of these events on the future of the profession and on health policy directions. Recent events have raised public anxieties about caring practices in nursing. Health policy reform driven by scandal may obscure the effect of under resourcing in health services and poses a very real threat to the continued support for state run services. Understanding the socially constructed nature of scandal, enables the nurse to develop a greater critical awareness of policy contexts in order that they can influence health service reform.