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‘It is time to recognise that this system is broken’


For care providers in the community and hospitals, December doesn’t ring in with all the potential of an unopened advent calendar, with its festive scenes and 
chocolate promises.

We’re told this year, that if the 
Australian winter is anything to go by, 
this is going to be a terrible year for flu. That’s bad news when services are already under pressure, understaffed and under-resourced. Throw in an icy winter and a dose of norovirus – and this winter crisis could be worse than ever.

The goodwill of staff is propping up our health services. This winter, community nurses will trudge through the snow to reach patients in rural areas, and nurses on hospital wards will work longer and without breaks to cover wards and corridors filled to the brim.

The falling numbers on the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s register tell us we are burning out our nurses, and not acquiring them quickly enough, whether it is from overseas or training enough of our own here.

It is time to recognise that this system is broken. Community nursing could be one way to fix it, but, like every other sector, it is being poorly resourced and underfunded. Community nursing should not be viewed as nursing on the cheap – a less expensive option than hospitals. It is underpinned by highly skilled, holistic and autonomous nurses, and it takes skill, professionalism – and dare I say it, a commitment to continuing professional development to support the delivery of care in this way. However, that is not what is happening in the community.

”Few are prepared to acknowledge just how fragile the NHS really is”

Last week, I was on my way to a Nursing Times event near Oxford Street. The tourists were all trying to capture the idyllic festive scene, with snowflakes falling in front of the dramatic Christmas lights. I heard one girl say to her friend: “It’s not real you know, look”, as she caught a flake in her gloved hand, “it’s just foam they’re pumping out from somewhere”.

The public might see the NHS as something of an illusion like this. They see staff going to work, doing their jobs and performing miracles – and believe that the system is working and sustainable. But it’s not – and few are prepared to acknowledge just how fragile it really is and how it could melt to nothing.

Just like the snowflake in that tourist’s gloved hand.


Readers' comments (3)

  • I have worked in the NHS for more than 40 years and I'm not exaggerating when I say I've never known a time when it wasn't in financial crisis. I've come to the conclusion that it's unsustainable in its present form. The system isn't just broken: it's irreparable. Demand will always outstrip supply.While this article focuses on Community Nursing it could just as easily have focussed on A & E, receiving ward, GP services, ambulance services or any other of the weak points which must break first under the stress of trying to function in a system which is unsustainable. Throw in a social service which is also creaking and you have the perfect storm.

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  • As with the Titanic sinking, Windscale reactor fire, Aberfan slag slide, Ronan point collapse, Herald of Free Enterprise sinking, Marchioness riverboat sinking, King's Cross fire, Clapham train crash, Croydon tram crash, Grenfell House fire and other disasters, The powers that be will not take effective action until there is a catastrophe involving multiple deaths. Get ready people, and cover your back so you don't get scapegoated.

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  • Oh yeah, and the 1980s HIV contaminated Factor VIII scandal, and the bovine spongiform encephalopathy scandal (also called vCJD or Mad Cow disease (was Margaret Thatcher the mad cow ?)). Plus the lack of proper oversight that allowed the credit crunch of 2008 which almost caused total collapse of the world economy.

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