We British like a grumble. And, let’s face it, there are times when we have things to grumble about. Football, for example. How rubbish were England in the World Cup? Watching Steven Gerrard wander about the place giving the ball to the opposition at every opportunity was a bit like watching Bambi trying to do a paper round on roller skates.
We always come last in Eurovision and, even though it rains a lot, we have a hosepipe ban. On top of that, we have a government that doesn’t believe in anything, motorways that are rubbish and Kerry Katona.
Of course we could focus on the good things; the music, the landscape, the strong sense of fair play so clearly illustrated by the fact that we invented cricket and the NHS. Yet that focus can blur into grumpiness when we find ourselves paying £2.20 for an ice cream without a flake in it and remembering about Kerry Katona.
‘We always come last in Eurovision and, even though it rains a lot, we have a hosepipe ban. Our motorways are rubbish and we have Kerry Katona’
In the health service, we can be an irritable bunch of muffins, can’t we? Our sense of injustice combined with our aching feet merge to make us question the length of our day and the division of labour it offers. What happened to that new staff member we were promised in 1998? And why is the nearest I get to a lunch break three custard creams and some cold tea on the way to pick up the kids?
From the inside, it can look miserable and messy. Nurses are too often told of the areas that require attention, the extra work that has to be done and the failures that are being exposed.
All the more reason, I think, to stop and celebrate the successes - particularly when they are important ones.
This month, a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit showed that the UK had one of the best systems for end of life care in the world. Along with Australia, the UK received 7.9 out of 10, well ahead of Denmark on 5.1 and Italy on 4.4.
Now, we know that nursing has sought to address standards of palliative care in recent years in terms of both specialist provision as well as more training for all nurses and staff. We know pathways have been developed and education delivered.
Too often, I think commitment is made and improvement sculpted without any real acknowledgement. We may get the occasional grudging “there is still some way to go” or “yes, things have improved but let’s face it they couldn’t have got much worse” - which is the nursing way perhaps - but maybe sometimes we can do better?
It is brilliant that, against a backdrop of constant policy change, uncertainty and pressure, nurses have contributed to making palliative care in the UK the best in the world. We keep hearing about how the health service is broken - it does no harm to notice that in some areas at least it remains the envy of the world.