Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more


'Is the nursing role no longer valued?'


The NHS celebrated its 65th birthday last Friday. Nurses have always been an essential part of the institution and governments have always acknowledged that - even if they haven’t shown quite as much respect (in terms of pay and conditions) as we’d like.

At my first-ever Nursing Times Awards in 2010, I remember sitting next to the then health secretary Andrew Lansley. He was talking about driving home that night, so we had a conversation about why he didn’t have a ministerial car.

He told me it was an easy decision to get rid of it. “It’s worth about six nurses’ salaries to have that for a year,” he told me.

That was the currency in which the government used to measure the value of something - the number of nurses that it would hire.

If they were trying to introduce a cost-cutting measure, they would tell you how many nurses you could employ with the money they’d save. By taking this approach it demonstrated nurses were unequivocally a force for good. Having fewer of them was bad - you would see care of a lesser quality. Implicitly, it said to the public - if there is money to be spent, it should be spent on nurses.

The government used to measure the value of something by the number of nurses it would hire. Implicitly, it said if there is money to be spent, it should be spent on nurses

But last week the present health secretary Jeremy Hunt changed the unit of currency while talking about charging international visitors to use the NHS on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He was responding to a question about how much money the levy for international students could raise. He said this would be about £200 per student, which he said would be the equivalent of “about 1,000 GPs” .

It’s interesting that he chose to refer to the amount in GPs instead of nurses. Nurses are generally paid less and so he would have been able to boast a more impressive number of nursing posts.

But is this change in currency a sign of something else? Does it signify the transfer of commissioning to GPs? Does the government think in the light of crises in care, nurses cannot be held up as paragons or do ministers think it’s ironic to talk about nursing posts considering cuts and an impending staff shortage? Or is it just that nursing isn’t considered valuable any more after the recent care scandals? Is having access to a GP the main measure of an effective NHS?

It may be a throwaway remark, and I hope it’s not a permanent alteration to the script. Nurses are an important

part of the health landscape, and to get their voice heard, they must be an important part of the political landscape too.

Jenni Middleton, editor Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Readers' comments (32)

  • Jenni,

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. We as a profession at times forget what we are worth, what the real value of our jobs and roles are.

    Nurses, Health Care Assistants (AP's, HCSW, RSW's etc) and Student Nurses are the back bone of our health care system, we are the central link between all members of the multi disciplinary team.

    Commissioning is being run by GP's and the commissioning groups are meant to have a Registered Nurse on them, yet many still do not.

    I believe we are a profession need to keep our voices heard in a firm and professional manner, else without our guidance and input who is going to be the advocate for the most important part of our health care system, our patient!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I think you have picked up on an important point. There is a lot of talk of clinical leadership in the NHS but it usually means medical leadership. Nurses are often so keen to recognise the multidisciplinary team that they too fail to mention the unique contribution of nurses. We are at a critical point for nursing and its time we recognised that respect for nursing can not be taken for granted and we need to demonstrate its value to Jeremy Hunt.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Nurses are vital and you are all taken for granted by everybody

    I treat nurses with total respect.
    You need a voice. Nurses are abused, attacked, sidelined because they have no voice.

    Nurses need to be far more vocal in their attitude. Nurses need to speak directly to the public and tell them what is going on and start campaigning for their rights


    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Nurse Leaders have put us all in a position where we nurses are not listened to or respected.
    When they can be more assertive enough to get more staff, ensure care is of high quality and training for staff is suitable.
    Stop just ticking boxes following government targets and sort out root problems, only then we nurses on the floor will see hope of being valued.
    Our captain is sinking our ship.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Hunt uses G.Ps as an example because he is a Doctor. Simple as that! But I do agree that nurses are sidelined and bullied, as we don't have a strong political voice. This is where the RCN needs to step up to the plate, but they rarely do. I'm proud to be a nurse. I work in a chemotherapy unit and am told on a daily basis what a great job we do by the patients and their relatives. So don't despair fellow nurses, we are respected, and people are grateful for what we do :)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anon 10.01
    Jeremy Hunt ( the 'H' is silent, the 'C' not) is not a ' Doctor', his degree is in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
    He is, however, the son of an Admiral, and the grandson of a Major on his mothers ( Lady Hunt) side.

    In 2009, Hunt was investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards after allowing his political agent to live in his taxpayer funded home in Farnham as a lodger from November 2005 to June 2007. The commissioner found:

    Mr Hunt was in breach of the rules in not reducing his claims on the Additional Costs Allowance in that period to take full account of his agent's living costs. As a result, public funds provided a benefit to the constituency agent... But I accept that Mr Hunt received no real financial benefit from the arrangement and that the error was caused by his misinterpretation of the rules.

    Hunt’s offer to repay half the money (£9,558.50) was accepted.Hunt also had to repay £1,996 for claiming the expenses of his Farnham home whilst claiming the mortgage of his Hammersmith home. The commissioner said:

    Mr Hunt has readily accepted that he was in error, and in breach of the rules of the House, in making a claim for utilities and other services on his Farnham home in the period during which it was still his main home. He has repaid the sum claimed, £1,996, in full. It is clear that, as a new Member in May 2005, his office arrangements were at best disorganised.

    In June 2010, Hunt attracted controversy for suggesting football hooliganism played a part in the death of 96 football fans in the Hillsborough disaster; when in reality lack of police control and the presence of terraces and perimeter fences were established as the causes of the tragedy. He later apologised saying "I know that fan unrest played no part in the terrible events of April 1989 and I apologise to Liverpool fans and the families of those killed and injured in the Hillsborough disaster if my comments caused any offence."

    In April 2012, immediately following David Cameron's statement that he would not associate himself with anyone who carried out “aggressive tax avoidance”, the Daily Telegraph disclosed that Hunt had reduced his tax bill by over £100,000 by receiving dividends from Hotcourses ( a company which he is part-owner of) in the form of property which was promptly leased back to the company. The dividend in specie was paid just before a 10% rise in dividend tax and Hunt was not required to pay stamp duty on the property.

    n September 2010, The Observer reported "raised eyebrows" when Hunt's former parliamentary assistant, Naomi Gummer, had been given a job within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on a fixed-term civil service contract after Hunt had proposed departmental cuts of 35–50 per cent. The head of the Public and Commercial Services Union questioned Hunt's motives saying, "Political independence of the civil service is a fundamental part of our democracy and we would be deeply concerned if this was being put at risk by nepotism and privilege." Gummer is the daughter of a Conservative life peer, Lord Chadlington, who was a director of Hotcourses ( that name again!) between 2000 and 2004.

    As Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Hunt was consequently given the quasi-judicial power to adjudicate over the News Corporation takeover bid for BSkyB. Hunt chose not to refer to the deal to the Competition Commission, announcing on 3 March 2011 that he intended to accept a series of undertakings given by News Corporation, paving the way for the deal to be approved. Following a series of scandals concerning phone hacking, a House of Commons motion was planned that called on News Corporation to abandon the bid. The bid was eventually dropped. Hunt was alleged to have had improper contact with News Corp. Emails released to the Leveson Inquiry detailed contacts between Hunt's special advisor Adam Smith and Frédéric Michel, News Corp’s director of public affairs and therefore a lobbyist for James Murdoch. The revelations led to calls from the Labour opposition and others for Hunt's resignation. Smith, Hunt's special adviser, resigned on 25 April shortly before Hunt made an emergency parliamentary statement in which he said that Smith's contact with Michel was "clearly not appropriate". Hunt said Lord Justice Leveson should be able to investigate and rule on the accusations and requested the earliest date possible to give evidence to the Inquiry to set out his side of the story. As a contribution to the House of Commons debate questioning Hunt's conduct, his PPS, Rob Wilson drew up a list of supportive questions for Tory MPs to ask in the House of Commons in the midst of the BSkyB controversy. Hunt appeared before the Leveson inquiry on 31 May 2012, when it emerged that Hunt had himself been in text and private email contact with James Murdoch, congratulating him on the progress of the takeover bid, before he took over responsibility for adjudicating on the bid.

    Also, he believes in HOMEOPATHY!

    Many thanks to wikipedia!!

    In June 2012, Labour MP Chris Bryant accused Hunt of lying to Parliament. Speaker Bercow refused to require Bryant retract his allegation that Hunt was a "liar” on the basis that as the debate was on a "substantive motion on the conduct of a minister [Hunt], the normal rules about parliamentary language frankly don't apply".

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Oops sorry!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Hunt needs to be held to account by the law then

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • tinkerbell

    redpaddys12 | 13-Jul-2013 11:48 am

    thanks for the low down on that old barsteward. Did we ever get our refund back to our taxes for al his dodgy scams. Not so much a half wit then as a criminal, anyone else, who wasn't rich would probably have had to go to jail as an 'example'.

    Double standards.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • redpaddys12 | 13-Jul-2013 11:48 am

    Nice post!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Show 102050results per page

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.