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'Give us better wages and more staff, then we'll see better results' - Nurses attack the PM's commission


The ill-advised ‘pledge’ in a leaked draft of the Prime Minister’s Commission on the future of nursing and Midwifery has got readers as angry as they’ve ever been. Beyond the Bedpan doesn’t blame them.

When the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery set out to put nurses ‘at the heart of world-class NHS’, few could have predicted this.

Nurses welcomed the move; a brave step that would embolden a forward-thinking profession to lead change in a patient-centred NHS.

But a leaked draft of the commissions’ recommendations seems to suggest otherwise. The draft suggests asking all nurses to sign a ‘pledge’ reiterating their commitment to high quality care, health service improvement and professional accountability.

Nurses as handmaidens

It calls on nurses to renew their commitment to the public and patients, and by so doing reverse the perception of nurses as “poorly educated handmaidens”.

Hang on, do the public really see poorly educated handmaidens when they look at nurses? The phrase allegedly came from a public consultation undertaken by the commission. It brings to mind a scene of Dickensian depravity - illiterate wenches shuffling down grimy hospital corridors, spat on by doctors and patients alike.

At best it is an unfortunate turn of phrase, and as a summary of public consensus it is inaccurate as well as offensive.

The commission seems to suggests that it is up to nurses to redress the balance, to sign a “pledge” reassuring the public that, far being servile idiots, they are in fact committed to the NMC code of conduct, married to the values of the NHS, and actively involved in improving the health of the population.

A pledge too far

Beyond the Bedpan would venture that most nurses already do all of these things, and that many individual nurses and professional groups are well-respected by the public. By asking nurses to right the wrongs of the NHS, is the commission suggesting that they are responsible for them? And will the pledge really mean anything to the public?

“Will I be expected to make this pledge daily before I start my shift?” asks one. “What will make a real difference is giving ward staff the power and resources to make quality care a reality. We understand what is required, but we are spoon-fed platitudes by politicians and scolded by management who deny us the necessary resources.”

Another reader accuses the government of “patriarchal bullying”, and “lack of connection with reality and their own policies”.

Most tellingly, a commenter wants to know: “Does anybody from the government read these articles? If they did they would realise how unhappy we nurses are. What is a pledge really going to achieve? Give us better wages, better conditions and more staff, then we will see better results.”

A fair point, well made. Beyond the Bedpan applauds the spirit of the commission, and it is important to note that the above is from a draft of the commission’s recommendations and does not yet constitute official government policy. The message, from Nursing Times readers at least, is that it never should.


Readers' comments (59)

  • time I spend of my own on nursing is my choice, i will not support enforced use of my free time which is unpaid and more than full time hours!

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  • i am a staff nurse who works on a 42 bedded ward and i go beyond my duty to make patients get the best care. however, at times we have only five or six staff on a shift. this is the problem it is not the fault of the nurses it is goverment problem with no money in the pot. the ward cannot use bank staff or pay overtime because the ward is so overspent. i am so mad that i have to stay back and finish my work and i dont get paid for it. i am so disillusioned in nursing.

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  • carley vaudrey

    i am a student nurse and i completely agree with the above comment from 20-Feb-2010 9:27 am,
    nurses should not have to take part in a 'pledge' we adhere to the NMC code of conduct. Yes there are lazy and uncaring nurses but this is merely a few and the rest are hard-working and kind and caring and i am sick of the government making it out overwise. Maybe these leaders who seem to know so much about nursing care should actually spend some time on a real ward where the nurses are rushed off their feet because they are understaffed before making any judgements on them.

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  • I am a staff nurse on an acute surgical ward for many years . my colleagues and I always have to stay behind to help, sometimes up to 45 minutes or one hour due to permanently shortage of staff. we do not get paid for this.We do not do this to give NHS a good name , we do this to help our patients and our colleagues whom we know would be in the same situation as we have been. This situation is here everyday , day in and day out. No amount of complaining or doing incident forms have made any difference.

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  • No staff on the shop floor looking after patients,yet the trust can advertise 4 posts to train as specialist orthopaedic nurses at £38.000 per year each [we already have 2] for a hospital with 4 wards.Its positively obsene

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  • I find the idea of nurses having to make a 'pledge', to do what is in effect their job, very offensive. The presumption seems to be that we are not already adhering to our NMC code of conduct, and have taken these overworked and underpaid jobs just to make our patients lives a misery. I was so proud to have completed my nursing degree (the first member of my family to get one) and I worked harder than I ever have in my life to get it. Is this really the best they can come up with? If this is really what they think the public think of us then we should all give up now!

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  • Maybe politicians should take a pledge not submit dubious expenses claims, people in glass houses and all that.
    Says it all really when an ex politician says that they should be allowed to travel first class as you find "totally different type of people" in standard class.
    I work in community mental health covering a huge patch in Lincolnshire,I can't remember when I last had a proper lunch break and when I do it's usually sat in my car in a lay by somewhere. as for staffing I reckon I know the lone working policy off by heart. Thankfully I can retire in 5 years.

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  • this is completely unacceptable. gloucestershire hospitals nhs is closing some 200 beds, some by the end of next month, the rest in the next few months. they are closing wards, splitting up good teams. is that going to improve moral or care of patients i think not. i am on one of the wards to shut our three specialities are being split onto three seperate wards. each speciality requires sound knowledge, putting them on general wards means that their levle of care will be poor. Mr Brown come to gloucester and talk to the staff affected, listen to present you are so out of touch.

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  • They are using Nursing to score points for political purposes (ref. Election) the same way they do with other professional and social categories. Populism always works when dosed prudently with timing. Yet, we should not give up, even with the impression that the public is unhappy about nursing performance. To the contrary, we should fight back in developing our own agenda and taking the opportunity of the next election. Therefore, we need the following:
    1. Being united in order not only to allow our movement to grow but also to prevent some individuals and corporate agencies to derail it with the guilt/responsibility argument;
    2. Winning the hearts and minds of patients, their families and the communities, explaining them that Nurses are also victims of the NHS chronic mismanagement and, together, we can turn things for the better;
    3. Creating a Nursing website that will raise money in order to start campaigning for the Nursing profession, focusing on the lack of safety in the health care system and proposing solutions and strategies to reduce occupational hazards and protect Patients and Nurses (e.g. Mandatory Ratio Nurse/Patients).
    I have also a pledge:
    1. All politicians should uphold the rule of law and the values enshrined in the ‘unwritten’ British constitution. They should be responsible for the quality of life for all their citizens and should act to tackle substandard living.
    2. Politicians will try to make sure that people using government services and society receive the greatest benefit from public service resources. They should use their own time to develop services and adopt best manners.
    3. Politicians should deliver fairness to all. They will undertake parliamentary debate and make laws to improve the daily life of their citizens.
    4. Politicians should be fully involved in designing and delivering public services. Politicians should be role models for rectitude.
    5. Politicians should take charge of delivering social justice. They will innovate, challenge accepted wisdom and look for new answers.
    6. Politicians should be actively engaged in the shaping of public service policy, including funding, and new forms of management.
    Abel sidhoum (RN)

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  • krish

    I think we all nurses should enter in to politics we would do better job to then the present government. Recently one of the GP stood as MP and won the seat. It is time to form our party and show them how to run the government.

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