Don’t you think we all need a holiday? Yes, all of us.
It costs nothing to dream and in our house we like to compile lists of possible holidays before putting all of the ideas into a hat, burning the hat and letting my wife decide.
This is because I once suggested we try to compromise so that everyone got something of what they most wanted. Interacting with wildlife (daughter), spending time in the water (me), and experiencing a different culture (wife) somehow came together to form a holiday that involved swimming with sheep in Wales. Which is more expensive than it sounds unless you smuggle your family into a coastal farm, at night, and harass the already troubled sheep toward the sea. I don’t think it’s as much fun as that sounds and most Welsh farmers agree, so down with compromise.
I was talking to a student the other day who said she had two weeks off and was hoping to get a late booking somewhere warm for a week where she would sleep, get a suntan and write an essay. She had been working in her “spare” (sic) time as a healthcare assistant and had enough self awareness to notice that she was emotionally and physically exhausted. “I have spots,” she said, “and I’m 29!”
I wonder if it becomes dull to notice the amount of effort nursing staff, including the often voiceless army of HCAs, are expending in trying to contain the tidal wave of need that is the everyday NHS? Because the energy required to provide not just the care but the attention that goes into most clinical days is worth noting and admiring.
Why the holiday? Well, apart from the obvious need to rest after such a lot of work, a recent poll of health service chief executives by the NHS Confederation said that 53% of them expected patient care to worsen. Not one said this was because we were on holiday or because nursing staff were not being attentive, focused and professional, but because services would suffer through another reorganisation, public services would be cut and the ideology driving the Health Bill was not focused on good patient outcomes.
Meanwhile new research in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine tells us that the UK has among the most efficient health services in the whole world in terms of saving lives per pound spent. Reading this conjured up an image from an old Frankenstein film, where all the angry villagers are charging up the hill with their lit torches and pitchforks, fixed on slaying the out of control monster that is the NHS. And there is someone standing in front of them pointing out that actually they are getting very good value for money and it would be far more expensive for them if they lived in pretty much anywhere else but he is trampled by the angry people and left lying in the street with a pitchfork up his bottom.
It would be interesting to find out what it is that makes the NHS such good value for money. Given the fact it seems to get an organisational makeover every time the government changes the colour of its tie I would guess its strengths lay in delivery.
And what is it about that delivery? Its skill? Your fortitude? Emotional labour? Clinical ability and qualities that go beyond protocol and into the attention staff bring to patients?
These are difficult times but research - as opposed to political rhetoric - suggests staff are getting a lot of the important stuff right. Given that fact, in reality staff deserve more than a holiday - they deserve a pay rise. What are the odds?