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60 seconds with Tony Butterworth, emeritus professor

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We talk to Tony Butterworth, emeritus professor, now retired, a chairman and trustee of several charities, who qualified as a mental health nurse in 1965.

Why did you become a nurse?

I had some experience of mental illness in my family and had seen nurses at work. I admired their ways of working. My mother was a nurse and encouraged me.

Where did you train?

For psychiatric nursing, I trained at Storthes Hall Hospital in Huddersfield; for general nursing, I trained at the Manchester Royal Infirmary.

What was your first job?

Staff nurse on an acute mental illness admission ward

What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?

I have never learnt how to suppress my anger at unfairness and therefore am inclined to say the first thing (often ill advised) that comes into my head. I sometimes live to regret it.

From whom have you learnt most from in your career?

Dr Paddy Carr, my senior colleague at the then Manchester Polytechnic, for his generosity to others and his creative boldness. Baroness Professor Jean McFarlane at the University of Manchester for her ability to lead and innovate like no other. It was a privilege to work with her.

What advice would you give someone starting out?

It is more than a job! The bad publicity we get as nurses is hurtful but the pleasure nursing brings to those who practise it and the comfort it gives to others cannot be bettered.

What keeps you awake?

Constant meddling by all governments in the delivery of healthcare and their assumption that service reorganisation will fix everything. It is arrogance beyond measure and shows an ignorance of history and its lessons.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

I have never been unhappy or dissatisfied in my work but creating interesting ways of working brings great pleasure.

What is your proudest achievement?

Three things. Helping mental health nurses move to and work productively in the community, introducing the profession to clinical supervision and developing our understanding of clinical academic careers.

What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?

There will inevitably be more nurses working in the community and the greater focus of nurses’ work and innovation may well be there.

What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?

I wanted to be a farmer.

What makes a good nurse?

Professionalism, patience, persistence, practicality, personality, purposefulness.(There are 6Cs - why not 6Ps?)

If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?

I would wish to roll back the insidious and thinly disguised dismantling of the NHS and its proud traditions.

What would your ideal weekend involve?

Sun, sea, sand, sport, swimming and sex (it’s the 6Ss!).

If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?

I would delight in the company of philosopher and writer Niccolo Machiavelli (but he’s dead and I can’t speak Italian) so an hour with former Manchester United manager

Sir Alex Ferguson would be very instructive.

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