Huge congratulations to Eleanor Smith, one of the latest nurses to enter Parliament after the recent general election.
It is gratifying to see another nurse join the House of Commons as an MP, and express determination to raise the profile of nursing and healthcare. There are other nurses taking seats in Westminster, and to my mind, we cannot have too many.
We need nurse MPs to draw attention to issues that matter to nurses, other health professionals and public sector workers. In our interview with Ms Smith, she pledges not to stop fighting until the pay cap is lifted. That is laudable.
But Ms Smith raises another important point about the nursing profession, and why its members are best placed to enter politics – how their experience in advocating for patients means they have the necessary skills to represent their constituents and the wider public.
“This is a profession committed to doing the right thing”
They are pragmatic, tenacious in fighting for what is right, and superb prioritisers – all skills and qualities that are essential in today’s healthcare sector. This is a profession committed to doing the right thing. And we certainly need an infusion of that in the corridors of power at the Palace of Westminster.
The House of Lords has only three nurses, and as mighty as Baroness Mary Watkins, Baroness Audrey Emerton and Baron Hector MacKenzie are, we need more nurses to scrutinise draft legislation and steer policy towards a sensible course.
Nurses need to start making their voices heard far more. They speak up for patients, but they need to also speak up for themselves.
Nursing is experiencing turbulent times – as is healthcare more widely – and it needs a clear, focused and pragmatic approach to the problems of workforce, education and funding. Nurses cannot complain about decisions being made without them unless they are prepared to be part of the conversation.
“It is far more challenging to try to be a part of the solution”
Sometimes, I witness people sitting at the sidelines in this profession, throwing brickbats at those making decisions. That is all too easy. It is far more challenging to try to be a part of the solution – to put yourself forward to help find the answers and offer leadership.
It is difficult and takes courage. When I see nurses like Ms Smith doing that, it makes me feel proud of this profession, and even more confident of the vast contribution that nurses can make. I wish her, and all the other nurses who are returning to or joining parliament, good luck.