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‘We don’t need Brexit stealing the credit for our staffing crisis’

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To recap, we will no longer be in the EU and although we don’t really know what that means, we can’t stop talking about it.

As far as one can tell, it is more important than always coming 23rd at Eurovision, but not quite as important as being knocked out of football’s European Championship by Iceland, a country that quite likes archery and has a population the size of Leicester. 

Meanwhile, the most right-wing prime minister in recent memory has handed in his notice and will probably now try to get his own gameshow on Channel 5. While we didn’t get to vote for the next prime minister (we’ve got our democracy back?) it’s hard not to worry that his successor, Theresa May, will make Mr Cameron look like Michael McIntyre.

As an aside, did we all know that some doctors grew a nose on a young man’s forehead last week? No, it wasn’t a prank, he had a badly damaged nose and needed a new one, so they grew it on his forehead to replace the damaged one. Isn’t that remarkable? Other stuff still happens, doesn’t it? Incredible stuff that is drowned out by some pretty obsessive media noise.

Anyway, the chances are that not being in the EU will affect nursing and the health service in a range of ways. We’ll see. I certainly hope it doesn’t stop nurses from other European countries sharing their expertise, or British nurses having the chance to do the same in Europe.

To imagine that our changing relationship with Europe would generate a staffing crisis in the NHS is a bit like suggesting a spot of rain would make Lake Windermere a bit wet. We have our very own staffing crisis, thank you very much, and we don’t need Brexit taking all of the credit for that.

Recent governments have chosen to make working in the health service – and more specifically, being a nurse – harder than before. The Francis Report appears to have acted as a bizarre legitimising tool to punish nurses: lower pay, more criticism, fewer staff and underfunding of services followed. Nursing organisations have been about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike in combating that. While junior doctors have fought to retain a coherent, clinically focused health service, nurses were left on the sidelines – morale low, stress high, feet aching. 

The only thing missing is a moat around hospitals to make getting to work that little bit harder, but maybe car park charges have the same effect and save taxpayers’ money that would otherwise be spent on moat-dwelling alligators.

We have massive staff shortages and no clear investment or plan to make things better. In essence, we have disinvested, quite systematically, in nursing over the last decade, so while some nurses might expect the referendum result to make things more challenging, everything that is happening appears to be making things more challenging.

I’d like to offer up a plan but nobody is listening, so I would say this: I have been in five hospitals over the last five weeks, and I have worked with and met an awful lot of nurses. I understand some are struggling, some are angry and some are close to despair, but most are deeply focused, thoughtful, engaged and considered, despite the circumstances in which they find themselves.

Maybe that is not a good thing. Maybe it encourages politicians to go ahead with the moat. But doing good when goodness is in short supply? That might not be newsworthy, but it is worth noticing.


Mark Radcliffe is senior lecturer, and author of Stranger than Kindness. Follow him on twitter @markacradcliffe



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