Theresa May might be feeling stressed, uncertain about her future and concerned that she does not have the resources to do a good job this morning. If she is, perhaps she might have a little bit of an insight into how most nurses feel about their jobs every day of the week.
Mind you if she did demonstrate that insight, it would be the first time she ever has.
A few weeks ago yesterday’s election was considered to be Ms May’s for the taking; a landslide was all but guaranteed. But she has thrown away her majority and her authority – through her failure to show any interest in or respect for her electorate by turning up to publicly debate the issues that matter to them.
“Her words show how little she values and respects nurses”
And I’d like to think that two now-infamous comments concerning nurses in the run-up to the election played a part in her reversal of fortune. Responding on the BBC Leaders’ Question Time to a nurse who asked why her pay had not risen in eight years, the prime minister said “there is no magic money tree”. That one patronising comment demonstrates how little she values and respects nurses; she speaks to them as if they are stupid and don’t understand the economics of the country. That is when she can be bothered to actually turn up and defend her record on such issues.
And of course, when asked on the Andrew Marr show a few weeks ago about nurses being forced to visit food banks, she defended this by saying it was for “many complex reasons”. I would say it was pretty simple actually, Ms May, you don’t pay them enough to feed their families.
“She does have choices about how she funds an increase in nurses’ pay”
I always say that nurses should never underestimate their power; the ripples caused by these two comments show just how powerful they can be.
Despite her condescending “magic money tree” comment, the truth is Ms May does have choices about how she funds an increase in nurses’ pay. She could raise income tax of the richest people in our society to fund the NHS paybill. She could make those large corporations that dodge paying tax here cough up what is fair and proper. She could actually pay nurses a decent wage so they don’t leave the profession, forcing trusts to waste millions in agency fees and talent scouting overseas to cover their vacancies.
She – and Mr Cameron before her - could have done all or any of these things to start making a difference to those working hard to care for the sickest and most vulnerable people in our society or support those who need an advocate the most. But they chose not to. And the voters know that.
My only hope is that this failure to achieve the overwhelming majority that she expected will make her understand not just that the country does not want her version of Brexit. It should also make her think that the country finds her and her government’s record on health and the way it treats people delivering our care, unpalatable.
They find it unspeakably cruel and selfish, Ms May that you would continue to run the NHS into the ground rather than spend the resources it needs to protect it and ensure the people who are propping it up are paid a fair wage.
“Ms May should also see that she has lost the mandate to slash and burn the NHS”
The prime minister was looking for a mandate for her version of Brexit – well that didn’t materialise. But she should also see that she has lost the mandate to slash and burn the NHS the way she and her government have done for the past few years.
There is the most severe nursing shortage we have ever seen in the UK. And the Conservative’s answer to this crisis? Cut nurses’ pay. Of course that is what you’d do isn’t it? What a brilliant idea. In the past eight years, NHS staff’s below-inflation rises mean they have had a 14% pay cut.
If that doesn’t quite manage to lose the few nurses we have, what’s next? Force those who want to become nurses to pay for their training. What a genius move, Ms May. If a service is struggling to recruit into a particular profession, then make that profession more difficult to remain in and less attractive to join.
And it’s that fundamental lack of respect for nursing that has seen her and her Conservative government justify ignoring the Independent Pay Review Body’s advice and offering a derisory 1% pay award for the past few years.
“I have often wondered just how bad do things have to get in nursing before the Conservatives wake up”
Well perhaps it had to get this bad. Bad enough that the voters had to tell her if she didn’t support nurses in their jobs, they wouldn’t support Ms May in hers. We are about to enter a situation of chaos and uncertainty.
My only hope is that out of this, we emerge with a government that realises just how much the NHS and healthcare – and nursing – matter to the electorate. And that they do something about it – starting with NHS pay.
If Ms May fails to form a government and finds herself out of a job and having to visit a food bank as a result? Well that will be for a complex number of reasons, Ms May. But at least you will have plenty of time on your hands to search for that magic money tree.