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'Calling nurses a drain on public finances is a downright insult'


Back in the 1960s and 1970s my family were forced to listen to junior choice on a Sunday, while my Dad cooked bacon and eggs with fried bread.

Occasionally, a listener would request a terrible song - say, Tammy Wynette’s ‘No Charge’ - and my Mum would demand that the radio was turned up. For a moment we would all feel guilty about the things our Mum did for us for free, but inevitably the effect was short-lived.

I was reminded of this song last week while listening to George Osborne berate public sector workers in a way that suggested they are a drain on public finances and taxpayers. It made me think about all the things nurses do, free of charge, which go unnoticed in every hospital on every day of the week. So here are just a few:

  • Staying late or coming in early to be with a patient who frightened, in pain, alone or dying;
  • Working a double shift with no overtime pay because there is no cover;
  • Helping a patient who has had diarrhoea for the 15th time on a night shift and managing to remain cheerful, supportive and smiling;
  • Getting to the end of the shift and realising you have had nothing to eat or drink;
  • Acting as a porter, cleaner and domestic when no-one else is around;
  • Standing and taking abuse from patients and relatives because they are anxious, drunk or simply rude;
  • Knowing you can’t do your job the way you want to because you don’t have time or the staff - but continuing to do your best despite this;
  • And for some, ending a nursing career with crippling back pain caused by the wear and tear of moving and handling patients.

Not everyone can be a nurse. It is heavy, hard work - both physically and emotionally - that requires skill, intelligence and dedication. Every day you deal with pain, death, despair, bereavement, along with vomit, faeces, sputum, urine and blood.

Yes, there is a financial crisis - pay may have to be capped and maybe we all need to be glad we are in a job, but undermining the dedicated work of many nurses is unacceptable; describing it as a drain on public finances is a downright insult. Perhaps a thank you and an acknowledgement of contribution would be more appropriate - plus, it wouldn’t cost.


Readers' comments (13)

  • Anonymous | 6-Dec-2011 7:03 pm

    Anonymous | 5-Dec-2011 8:24 pm

    Thank you so much for your kind comment.

    I hadn't really expected any sign of gratitude from the NMC although recognition of over 30 years service would have been appreciated instead of two aggressive letters pointing out that it was fraudulent to practice without registration. I wonder why I bothered to write to them as my name would soon have been automatically removed when they didn't receive my registration fee (or should have been if they were doing their job).

    It seems in their eagerness to attempt to protect the public they have forgotten the nurses to whom they are responsible for holding their registration.

    Although it was a standard letter, probably sent out by some junior clerk I believe policy and organisational culture is the responsibility of Dickon Weir and I would have thought in his position he would be better educated and possess greater emotional intelligence to treat nurses and others with more respect.

    It is, however, of little issue as I now have a fulfilling life outside the NMC and little respect for this organisation and, apart from the fact that I was enormously proud to be on the register of nurses as it is a milestone in any life to qualify as a nurse, it was previously a greater honour to be an SRN (who also used to be well respected) where the GNC, to my knowledge, never had any issues. It is only regrettable that in the mid-80s when I qualified we were all lead to believe that our registration was for life until the UKCC and then the NMC appeared on the horizon and changed the rules and made new regulations.

    Obviously whilst periodic proof that practice and training are being kept up to date is vital I would have thought there were far more effective ways of supporting this.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 6-Dec-2011 8:06 pm

    'Although it was a standard letter, probably sent out by some junior clerk I believe policy and organisational culture is the responsibility of Dickon Weir and I would have thought in his position he would be better educated and possess greater emotional intelligence to treat nurses and others with more respect.'

    The problem, I suspect, is that as you say the letters are sent out by junior people, and junior people tend to stick rigidly to 'the rules as given to them'. Junior staff very rarely 'exercise any common sense' and also, I think, don't often tell the leaders of their organisations 'you shouldn't be telling us to do these things - they are clearly wrong'.

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  • THIS is happening in EVERY union job everywhere and so it maybe IS time for some 'reform' ?
    "Boom time in the NHS sees first nurse paid £100,000"
    "Some in the Regina Qu'appelle Health Region are pulling in between $180,000-$250,000 a year"
    "News that a nurse made $250,000 alarmed us not because of the size of the payment but the way such a sum was earned. He works 12, 12.5-hour shifts a month, apparently works four weekends in a row, and picks up 12 more shifts by working overtime. The legislation to limit the working day to eight or nine hours, which was fought for so bitterly by trade unions two centuries ago, was to prevent this way of working. It was considered exploitative and, in many trades, to be dangerous. As a result, industrial accidents have declined. Now, however, excessively long hours seem to be permitted in hospitals"

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