NT: What do you say to those who think that there should be a moratorium on change in the NHS?
GB: ‘We are not talking about structural change. Our reforms are proposed in the interests of patients recommended by consultants and clinicians – it is not change for change’s sake and I think that all nurses would want to support that.’
NT: What guarantee can you give that the reforms will not cost more jobs, as we have seen over the last year and a half?
GB: ’Over the last ten years we have created more than 80,000 nursing posts. We are committed to the nursing profession and training more nurses. We are trying to give more scope for specialist nurses, the nurse consultant, the nurse prescriber. I would like to see the status of nurses enhanced.
NT: It’s a very demanding agenda…don’t you think you should recognise the decision of the pay review body this time round and reward nurses for their hard work?
GB: ‘That is for the future. I wanted to pay nurses more for the great contribution that they have made. But people have got to remember that we were in a situation where we had to control inflation. Interest rates would be higher now and any pay rise would be cancelled by the interest rate rise.
‘The reason for the staged pay award was not that we did not want to value nurses. But we could not put interest rates at risk in the whole country.
‘People must understand that this was done because we were worried about the state of the economy as a whole.’
NT: How many more nurses will you need to realise your plans?
GB: Nurses will play a very big part in the whole of this agenda. People will turn to these nurses…I must give praise for the work done by all nurses, whether they are specialist nurses, diabetes nurses…all of these areas are where we are focusing. We really want to praise the work that nurses have done.’