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.