'Compassion is not missing from the NHS'
Nurses need to be shown compassion. That is what I wrote just two weeks ago in this column, when I suggested that government reaction and media coverage of nursing over the past year implied that what went wrong at Mid Staffs was entirely down to a lack of compassion in nursing staff.
Nurses rightly feel aggrieved at suggestions that their lack of a desire to do the job well is to blame for the care failings there and at other struggling hospitals and NHS organisations.
That column struck a chord with many of you who feel sick and tired of having the finger pointed at you - without any evidence to back it up.
Cue secretary of state for health Jeremy Hunt stating in The Telegraph just over a week ago that what nurses need to do their jobs well is compassion. He did so while confirming a review of pre- and post-registration nurse education and training by Lord Willis. His comments amounted to suggesting that compassion needed to be put back into the heart of education, training and the profession.
Will someone please just listen? Listen to the nursing profession instead of telling it what’s wrong.
Here are the facts. Compassion never actually left nursing. Most nurses are so compassionate that they work hours of unpaid overtime, come into work on their days off and sacrifice their home lives to put their patients first. If they didn’t, the NHS would collapse.
Compassion never actually left nursing. Most nurses are so compassionate they work hours of unpaid overtime and sacrifice their home lives to put patients first
What’s wrong isn’t a lack of compassion; it’s a lack of nurses to deliver care. Our surveys into understaffing (most recently carried out in February) and Unison’s last month reveal that nurses are compassionate - but they are so stretched that they don’t have time to deliver the care they want to. It’s not an absence of emotion but an absence of resource that’s the problem.
Do we need to spend more money on yet another review of nurse education and training? Wouldn’t it be better spent on employing more nurses? Don’t we already have the evidence of what’s wrong?
It seems to me the government wants to keep spending money on pointless reviews until one comes up with the answer it likes.
Yes, the public love it when Mr Hunt stands up and says compassion must be at the core of the NHS. It’s crowdpleasing stuff. I agree that compassion is crucial - but I disagree that it is missing from our NHS. And compassion goes both ways Mr Hunt, so now you need to show some to nurses. It’s time to stop insulting a hardworking profession by suggesting nurses have forgotten how to care, and start giving them the tools to enable them to do their jobs.
Jenni Middleton, editor
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed