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'Hunt’s attack hurt and confused congress'


Events at the Royal College of Nursing Congress in Liverpool last week were inspiring, heartbreaking, frustrating, irritating and jaw-dropping.

The week kicked off with a flurry of media attention on the RCN’s revelations that - surprise, surprise - nurses do too much bureaucratic paperwork and that there are not enough nurses to provide safe care in a variety of settings across the NHS.

But the big news came when the college said the government’s proposal to compel all student nurses to do up to a year’s training as a healthcare assistant before starting their course was “stupid”. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt went on the attack, suggesting the RCN had no right to criticise, considering its role in Mid Staffs.

It was a message that hurt and confused congress. In fact, the government’s response to any criticism is to play “the Mid Staffs card”. It seems that if you challenge any health policy, Mid Staffs is brought up to quieten you. Never mind there is no evidence in the Francis report that nurse training - or nursing - are to blame.

The government’s response to any criticism is to play “the Mid Staffs card”. Never mind there is no evidence that nurse training - or nursing - are to blame

Had the health secretary come to congress, he could have been put on the spot about his claims. Instead, he was able to hurl insults from Westminster without ever facing the consequences.

There were excellent keynotes from Lord Willis and a tub-thumping address from chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter. Austin Thomas, lead nurse for the Paralympics, spoke of his NHS care when he was nearly killed in a motorbike collision.

He told congress of how he was “haunted” by the sounds of buzzers, phones and cries for help going unanswered. “There was a massive feeling of abandonment, and to lie there as a nurse and hear that and not be able to do something stays with me,” he said.

His picture of an overstretched NHS that caused him additional weeks of pain because of the care he received tallied with the experiences of delegates who are noticing the effects of cuts on nursing.

Nurses still have compassion, but every bit of support for them is being driven away.

Enter Molly Case. A student nurse who delivered a powerful message to congress about how it feels to be a nurse or student delivering the best care you can, while the media criticises in a flurry of hatred. You can watch it here:

As we go to press her poem has more than 91,000 youtube hits and counting. Her words were brilliant. Her presentation superb. Take note Mr Hunt et al - it is possible to possess intelligence as well as compassion. And those who do make the best nurses.

Jenni Middleton, editor Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Readers' comments (22)

  • Mr J.Hunt does not give a toss about nurses or the nhs

    from the man who co-wrote a book about the nhs being a 60 year mistake!!!

    he is in a party who are privatising our nhs so their mates can profit from sick low can you go

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  • This makes me so angry!! but is anyone really suprised to see the Government is quickly going back on every word, re: transparency, speaking out without fear of reprisals!! So when we do speak out the attack anyone to deflect the blame from themselves! Anything to dodge the bullet!!
    I am sick to my stomach of Politicians laying the blame at the feet of nurses, the RCN, NMC.. in fact everyone but themselves are to blame..

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  • Why doesn't Mr Hunt suggest that PMs work a probationary period of one year on half pay to root those MPs who are only interested in the job as a means of getting their snout in the trough and ripping off the pubic with excessive expenses. At the same time they carry on as directors of private companies which often lead to a conflict of interest. It’s easy for Hunt to bash nurses who he sees as an easy target. The Francis report laid the main blame for what happen at Mid Staffs on management. Mr Hunt has shown a strange reluctance to talk about management failings and expressed confidence in Sir David Nicholson, Head of the NHS, and refuses to sack him. Sir David Nicholson appointed the Mid Staffordshire Trust’s failed chief executive Martin Yeates – even though he had no formal managerial training and who went on to sack 50 nurses. The lack of care at Mid Staffs was a direct result of bad management and nursing staff shortages, resulting from the above.

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  • Politicians should spend a year as sewer cleaners before they start spouting s***

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  • Perhaps MPs should spend a year as healthcare assistants before being let loose on the public. It might stop them from speaking though their backsides!

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  • michael stone

    'It was a message that hurt and confused congress.'

    This is depressing - nurses should by now not be 'confused' by ministerial comments: to be confused, implies that one is looking for internal logic within the comment, which might be present: but if there is no logic, you should be looking for the 'agenda' and not defaulting to 'this confuses me' !

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  • Stop being 'hurt and confused'. How about being 'angry and effective'? Time to stop licking the wounds and start kicking some government butt, Dr Carter.

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  • michael stone

    mags | 30-Apr-2013 6:31 pm

    Mags, I like your 'bluntness and perception'.

    But if nurses were 'angry and effective', the NHS wouldn't be where it is at the moment, I would venture to suggest ?

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  • Hunt's comments left congress "hurt and confused"


    Is congress a collection of small children then? I'm no apologist for Hunt but that response from the RCN doesn't help us at all.

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  • Jodie's mate | 1-May-2013 1:55 pm

    I doubt whether congress were hurt and confused or even expressed it this way. but it does give a very silly impression of what it is all about and what they are doing. it is up to them to fight back and defend their members and the profession.

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