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Predicting the future

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NT columnist Rob Harteveldt peers into his crystal ball to see what nursing will be like in 60 years’ time.

Hello and welcome to the day some thought would never come – the 120th anniversary of the National Health Service. It is the pride of Britain and the envy of the world as much today as it ever was.

You join us here in London as we wait for the celebratory parade to begin in the presence of his majesty King William, the sprightly 85-year-old monarch, who himself has benefited from the now commonplace stem-cell therapy treatments.

Unfortunately, those who remember 1948 when healthcare was made available to all are no longer with us but the history books remind us of the struggle that ensured that the two-tier system of healthcare – which many thought the NHS was heading towards – never actually happened.

Some may say it’s because of the dedication of those at the head of today’s parade – and here they come, greeted by a terrific roar from the crowds. They are the nurses and care assistants, many of whom have continued to work into their 80s thanks to treatments developed through the use of human-animal hybrid embryonic research, which began in 2009.

Many of these staff are the forefathers of the NHS as we know it, for they led the publicly supported NHS strike of 2011 that forced the then Conservative government and prime minister David Cameron to end the debacle of enforcing unrealistic targets upon a beleaguered workforce.

Not only that, nurses also helped put an end to staged and below inflation pay rises – a move that helped to attract and retain skilled staff – and, perhaps most significantly, called a halt to constant reform to give previous reforms a chance to work.

Of course, there have been many other changes. Every nurse is now educated to a minimum master’s level, all are registered prescribers and three-quarters of them now work in the community taking health out to the people, many of whom are lining the streets today.

Nurses’ increasing political presence has resulted in legislation such as the Social Conscious Bill of 2030. People realised that, to keep the NHS, they must take a greater responsibility for their health, thus reducing costs. The bill was triggered by the obesity epidemic of 2029 and has had a dramatic effect on the number of so-called lifestyle diseases. Those who deviate from the healthy route, and where genetic screening proves their illness is self-induced, are now asked to make a financial contribution towards their treatment.

Nurses have also reduced their administrative duties. Microchip barcodes implanted under the skin, introduced in 2020, have eliminated the need for patient notes as, with a quick scan, patient information can be downloaded.

Hospital nurses still exist but only for the care of the most acutely ill. High-tech beds that monitor fluid, electrolyte balance and nutrition levels are now in place, and following the definitive research findings of 2035, patients are sedated during admission to hospital to allow their bodies to heal quicker. Such measures have drastically reduced nurses’ workload, further increasing morale.

In fact, one nurse was telling me earlier that morale is now so high there is a three-year waiting list to become a member of this workforce. It is a workforce that continues to be challenged as, despite the advances, new diseases have arisen and the health of our nation is threatened once again. But one thing is for certain, the new generation of staff, like those before them, will once more rise to that challenge.

This is Rob Harteveldt, reporting for Nursing Times, live from London on 5 July 2068, at the 120th anniversary parade of Britain’s National Health Service.

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