The chief executive of the NHS in England has praised nurses for their dedication to the job, as services have come under “enormous” pressures this winter, but has stressed staff goodwill must not be exploited.
Speaking at the chief nursing officer for England’s annual summit in Liverpool today, Simon Stevens thanked trust directors of nursing and their teams for their hard work.
“When it comes to it, people step up – so thank you”
He noted the continuing cold weather and cases of flu and norovirus had followed the traditionally pressurised Christmas period.
Despite the recent snowy period though, NHS nurses and other staff had gone “the extra mile” to ensure they could work their shift, he said.
“The fact is we had had three times the hospitalisation rate for flu than last winter, from the worst flu season in years. “Services have been under enormous pressure and as we saw last week and weekend, as always, our staff go the extra mile,” said Mr Stevens.
“It was on social media, in print media…… nurses and other staff walking sometimes miles through the snow, getting lifts from volunteers in many places, kipping down overnight in hospital so to be there for the next shift ahead,” he told delegates.
“This was once again an exemplification of what is best about the NHS,” he said. “When it comes to it, people step up – so thank you,” he later added.
However, he also warned the NHS could not rely on, or exploit, the goodwill of frontline staff. He later referred to this year’s NHS staff survey results, released yesterday, which showed there were “real issues” around workplaces stress, staffing levels, pay, violence and discrimination.
“We’ve had, and we are still in, one of the worst winters in terms of pressures and demand”
During her keynote speech at the summit earlier on, CNO for England Jane Cummings also highlighted that nurses had dealt with some “significant” recent events, including the prolonged period of winter pressures, but also the terror attacks last year.
She praised nursing staff for their resilience and for carrying out their duties with the “utmost dedication”.
“We’ve had, and we are still in, one of the worst winters in terms of pressures and demand, not helped by a significant increase in flu, a big increase in norovirus, and the cold weather. All of which has had an impact on people’s needs to access urgent and emergency healthcare,” she said.
“But on top of that we have had some really significant incidents,” she added. “So we’ve had the attack in Manchester, we’ve had the London bridge attack, the attack at the Houses of Parliament and the mosque in Finsbury park, as well as the Grenfell fire.
“In each of these incidents we’ve really clearly demonstrated that individual nurses have performed their duties with the utmost dedication, while highlighting their expertise, skill, their compassion, their bravery – and above all, their resilience,” she added.