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‘The NHS should be a role model as a caring employer’

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You’d expect nurses to be the most liberal, compassionate and empathetic of colleagues, and I am sure many are.

But those attributes are not universal among the profession or the NHS that employs them, according to a report by our journalist Jo Stephenson on page 6.

She has spoken to several nurses with disabilities who have been unable to
find permanent jobs and one who was even asked by a nurse who noticed her 
disability while she was a student undergoing her training.

With the workforce in its worst crisis for years, what we need are nurses – and good ones, with a range of life experience. You could see why nurses living with long-term conditions or disabilities would have experience and empathy that would make them exceptionally well-suited to care for others facing similar challenges.

The NHS must make it easier for those nurses to train and work. I understand how hard it must be to make a reasonable adjustment (which the law demands of employers), when you are short-staffed and under pressure, but the alternative is being even more short-staffed and under greater pressure.

But this isn’t just about the numbers – although that alone should be a good motivator for nursing colleagues and managers to make adjustments for colleagues with a disability.

As an organisation that prides itself 
on treating others fairly and with dignity and respect, the NHS should be the epitome of equality.

But according to the nurses we spoke to, often managers were forced to give them longer hours that were simply unworkable because of their disability.

In many cases, it was those nurses’ peers who made it difficult for them to continue working – either by the comments they made or by refusing to accept that they were unable to work the same hours or shifts as their colleagues.

The NHS should be a role model as a caring employer, and I am sure in many instances that it is. However, this story underlines how this is not consistent across the service.

So why is this? Is the NHS so inflexible and so under pressure that it simply cannot afford to be compassionate? 


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Readers' comments (1)

  • I've worked in a specialist unit for 15 years. Firstly as a Healthcare Assistant, then I trained to be an Associate Practitioner (AP) in 2008/10. I had to request reasonable adjustments about 5 years ago as my Inflammatory Arthritis (PsA) and Fibromyalgia flaired so badly I was off 5 months while treatment was triated. I feel I've had to fight to keep my job. Several times senior management have assumed I'm too stupid to realise that they have tried to trick me into placing myself in a vulnerable position. Luckily I know the trusts absence management and diversity and equality policies inside out and have backing from both the union and the consultant at Occupational Health. When the bridging courses became available for AP's I was told pointedly that I would not been encouraged to apply because I have disabilities, even though I had discussed my disabilites with the University and they saw no problem with me applying; in fact my old tutor said I would make a great RN. So even though I was not seen as a valued enough member of staff to progress to a RN, I have always been used as a "senior member of staff" when it suits the units management. By that I mean helping mentor students and newly appointed nurses, Opening the unit with only myself and a junior nurse without specialist training (this is seen as ok because "I am a very experienced member of staff")I love my job and I love my interactions with my patients, managing their daily care, and care plans and running my bays throughout a long shift with reduced staff and helping others when their bays are not running well. I give my all but, sadly, I don't feel valued by management at all.

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