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'Jeremy Hunt’s speech downplayed nurses'


Secretary of state for health Jeremy Hunt said in his speech last week that he wanted to make the health service “more human-centred and less system-centred”.

On the Department of Health website, the speech is accompanied by a kindly looking member of nursing staff looking after a patient. Judging by the uniform, it’s probably a healthcare assistant rather than a nurse. But nursing staff are the face of a “human” NHS, a caring NHS that Mr Hunt wants to build. Happy, motivated, compassionate nursing staff paint a great poster campaign for the NHS, and it’s unsurprising that this is the image used to flag up the health secretary’s vision for the health service.

“Happy, motivated, compassionate nursing staff paint a great poster campaign for the NHS”

And yet there was little mention of nursing in Mr Hunt’s speech. Reacting to weeks of criticism about the decision to move publication of safe staffing guidance from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence to NHS England, Mr Hunt announced that Dr Mike Durkin will move from the commissioning body to a newly created regulatory body. He will work with the CNO for England, Jane Cummings, on safe staffing, and the work will be independently reviewed by NICE, the Care Quality Commission and Sir Robert Francis.

Mr Hunt also briefly mentioned Sir Bruce Keogh’s review of the professional codes of conduct, including the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s Code.

But, besides these two references, there was no other direct mention of nursing. Perhaps we should be grateful the profession avoided the limelight for once, because right now it is the doctors who are in Mr Hunt’s line of sight.

He contends that the British Medical Association are roadblocking a seven-day service that Mr Hunt says would make the service safer and save lives. Currently, consultants can opt out of weekend non-emergency work but are still expected to be on call. The BMA has pulled out of talks with the government because it has concerns over workload, but Mr Hunt threatens to enforce a new contract on consultants to make them work at weekends.

“This row will provide something of a blueprint for how Mr Hunt will deal with healthcare staff”

This row will provide something of a blueprint for how Mr Hunt will deal with healthcare staff - and issues such as pay increases and unsocial hours pay - to ensure he can deliver the NHS that his party’s manifesto promised. Early indications are that he will do that aggressively, and won’t let anyone get in his way.

Jenni Middleton, editor

Follow me on Twitter: @nursingtimesed


Readers' comments (11)

  • hunt -despises nurses wants them replaced by volunteers as they cost nothing

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  • 'On the Department of Health website, the speech is accompanied by a kindly looking member of nursing staff looking after a patient.'

    ... and your link to this speech and the photo to which you refer is where? considering this is an article in a quasi professional magazine!

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  • 'Jeremy Hunt’s speech downplayed nurses'. Would anyone expect anything else from this pillock?

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  • jeremy hunt is not a nurse, or a health care proffesional, he has no idea what the human body needs or what a nurse does, but has somehow crawled to the top of the NHS food chain. why is it a suprise he comes out with rubbish like this?

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  • See 'we need to talk about jeremy' petition

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  • It's the BMA that needs a boot up the backside, not Jeremy Hunt. If we take it that "doctors" are ultimately responsible for the health and well-being of "patients" then it is THEY who should be clamouring for appropriate numbers, status and recompense of their invaluable "assistants".

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  • Consultants are not doing anything or very little to ensure that their patients are not cared for by a force that is under pressure from administrators, delivering the goods in 'sweat houses'.
    Hunt is seeking guidance from so many except from nurses.
    We have in the hospital I work more and more people employed to get medically fit patients out. Nurses are under pressure and under staffed, and we are the main players in getting patients out whether it be from in the hospital or being in the community.
    Those administrators don't mind because they have a job. They just keep going in circles with computers, pens and paper. The new target is the OT they feel the OTs should be getting the elderly people out sooner too much waiting time for equipment etc.
    In fact they want the OTs to do the dirty job of kicking the elderly patients out.
    Other trouble is they cut down on the phamacist hours so patients are waiting longer for TTOs. Such fools they do not understand that the heath service involves a strong chain from every angle to work right.

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  • I once saw a news report that followed Mr Hunt into a very shiny looking NHS centre (PFI definately!) as he followed a consultant while he reviewed patients on a day case unit, the consultant started talking about this and that and then he said "sometimes the patients need an infusion". Mr Hunt then said the immortal line of "Whats an infusion?". From the secretary of state for health thats got to be a classic!

    Anyway, I think its funny how suddenly Doctors are under "attack" and you cant open a newspaper, look at social media or listen/watch the news without there being an annoyed doctor of various grades bemoaning how hard they work etc. etc. and they are calling for their NHS colleagues to support them. However nurses (and other NHS staff) have had their pay and conditions slowly chipped away over the years (Agenda for change anyone?! - Doctors exemption?!); where were our colleagues then?!

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  • Why does the top commentor believe that Jeremy Hunt depises nurses?

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  • it is not just about consultants. The service of which I am part has 10 registrars, 12 junior doctors and 11 consultants during the week. It is a very busy service with many clinics and investigations and procedures carried out Mon-Fri as well as 68 in-patient beds across 3 wards. At the weekend there is 1 junior doctor and 1 registrar, 1 consultant and 1 specialist nurse to deal with all the emergencies. The number of ward-based nursing staff is the same every day of the week as the in-patients need the same care. Medical care is just spread too thinly.
    Would it make sense to spread all the planned work across the week with all departments working a 7 day shift pattern.
    There is no way the NHS can afford to employ more consultants at the weekend unless they cut back during the week

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