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'Sunday madness is epitomised by stupid government leaks'


The front page of last week’s Sunday Times went some way to illustrating the strangeness of modern Britain.

On the left of the page was an article expressing concerns over women beach volleyball players wearing more than male spectators want them to. The inclement weather means a bit of lycra and some bikini bottoms may not be the wisest PE kit of choice. Many red-blooded men – including Dave “look at me I’m a bloke” Cameron – expressed concern about the cover-up. The picture to the story carried the line “Players including Britain’s Denise Johns can wear leggings if the weather is cold” – with the picture showing Ms Johns not wearing leggings, nor a woolly jumper, just in case people weren’t clear as to what was at stake here. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the page, the less frivolous “Thousands of doctors face sack” headline told us that NHS chiefs have reached the inevitable conclusion that doctors and nurses are essentially holding the NHS back from its hopes of being a profit-making organisation. So it is time to sack them unless they agree to drastic changes in their pay (don’t get any) and conditions (no talking, you must pay to go to the toilet, you can never go home again). 

I won’t bore you with the details, suffice to say they are all vague and ridiculous. By simply existing, by slipping seamlessly into the consciousness of a beleaguered workforce, perhaps they manage to prevent staff from asking: “How can we make things better?” and demand they ask instead: “How are we going to stop things from getting even worse?” Because the bigger the threat, the more defensive a tired workforce seems to get.

I should add at this point that the best line in the article – the one that sums up everything that is wrong with the blind managerialism that dominates health policy – is “the document outlines measures required to maintain patient services in the face of cuts”. Oh yes, to keep patient services going, we are going to need to get rid of the people involved with patient services. 

Anyway, I am writing this on a Sunday. Tomorrow, I am teaching first-year nursing students. As I have said before, I like first-year nursing students. Yes, there is the odd surly one who is perpetually cross and should be doing media studies but, in the main, they are engaged and committed and thirsty for whatever it is they think will make them good nurses. 

Frankly, you can argue all you like about them doing degrees, or going to university or not wearing hats but the simple reality is that once they decide they want to nurse, they have to do the course the profession gives them. They don’t get to choose to do the 1984 syllabus, or Project 2000 or the nice one that involved lots of folding that was popular in the early 1930s. They do what is required of them because they want to nurse. 

And I wonder, genuinely, has there ever been a more difficult climate in which to begin nursing? Politically undervalued, economically marginalised, professionally isolated? 

I said this to a friend recently. She replied: “They are mad. If I knew then what I know now….” But I didn’t believe her. On either count. I don’t think the students are mad – I believe they are among the best of us. And I’m not sure I believe my friend wished she hadn’t nursed. Indeed, I wonder if the fact that she still believes in what she is doing is what enables stupid governments to leak stupid papers without having a national strike on its hands.


Readers' comments (10)

  • Nurse pay has been under attack for some time now - perhaps there will be some publicity once the saintly medics are threatened?

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  • I totally agree Mark,,what to do , what to do?? Are we nurses together on this as a group??

    Lisa Ward
    lead Respiratory Nurse

    ...qualified 1984

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  • tinkerbell

    'the beatings will continue, until morale improves'.

    Quite frankly, sack me, i've had enough of it. I can't take much more. If i am asked to do 'just one more thing' on top of what i already do then stand well back, 'move on, there's nothing to see here' whilst the men in white jackets remove me from the ward.

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  • tinkerbell

    just remembered one of the few things soothing my fevered brow at the moment is the music 'Calibans Dream' from the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Hope it helps you too.

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  • I saw that headline too. I thought it disgraceful that the female athletes should wear more clothes. Totally missed the doctors losing jobs one though.

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  • I am an underpaid Nurse,sometimes NOT paid for up to 3 months-I work in QLD Australia.I'm also married to a Saintly Medic ,as your first responder calls them,Why do Nurses always attack Dr's? It's pathetic.
    He will be in real danger of loosing his NHS pension when it's due.
    In this country He is not salaried,no sick pay ,holiday pay,super etc.
    Both of us suffer due to bad administration by pen pushers blaming computers.
    This is the reality of working for government for Dr's and Nurses in the UK and OZ.
    So stop the bitching about medics and band together!

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  • isa tucker | 20-Aug-2012 10:15 pm

    true even the PM says we are all in it together.

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  • michael stone

    lisa tucker | 20-Aug-2012 10:15 pm
    Anonymous | 20-Aug-2012 10:34 pm

    I'm not 'in it' with the PM - who was it who said 'I wouldn't care to be a member, of any club that would accept me' ?

    But it helps the people who don't really like the NHS (no names - work it out for yourself) if the people who do support the NHS, are indulging in fragmented in-fighting instead of presenting something approaching a unifed front.

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  • tinkerbell

    DH Agent - as if ! | 21-Aug-2012 3:22 pm
    who was it who said 'I wouldn't care to be a member, of any club that would accept me' ?

    Groucho Marx.

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  • DH Agent

    If the PM said 'we are all in it together' we are all in it together whether you like it or not even though it now seems the PM is not really in it with all the rest of us.

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