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OPINION

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

  • 13 Comments

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.

  • 13 Comments

Readers' comments (13)

  • michael stone

    Nurses are a 'drain on public finances' in exactly the same way that MPs are: the 'public purse' pays their wages. In every other sense - including the one implied by Osborne - nurses, teachers, firefighters, etc are performing a necessary funtion, and simply being paid for doing it.

    Did Osborne actually say that !!!! If so, he is dimmer than I thought he was.

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  • I was brought up to believe that investing extra for good quality pays off, even if it means sacrificing something less essential for a while, and that doing the opposite can be, and usually is, false economy and can lead to higher costs in the long run. I still believe this, and especially in the light of the current debate on the NHS and adequate staffing and infrastructure. where would the country be and in what state if all those listed in the post above withdrew their services or chose other careers with more attractive working conditions.

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  • Anonymous | 1-Dec-2011 3:43 pm well said, I couldn't have said it better myself!

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  • Oh god, and it just goes on and on doesn't it. George Osborne is such a nasty, arrogant man, along with Andrew Lansley and the rest of these idiots.

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  • "...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."

    Eileen, I couldn't agree more.

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  • why don't the NMC understand about acknowledgement of contribution after a long career in nursing. I sent in my resignation on retirement and to my surprise got two standardised letters lecturing me about fraudulent practice without registration, and one with a photocopied signature of Dickon Weir himself. It is hard enough giving up one's registration after a life in nursing and all one has worked hard to achieve without such a cold undignified send off.

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  • It's all about shifting the affection of the public away from the NHS as we currently know it so when your local hospital is sold to a private company the argument is already won.

    The Tories know that they couldn't get rid of the current NHS as it stands without winning the argument in the media first. Part of that process is a daily diet of discrediting the good work that currently goes on.

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  • George Osbourne....You have nothing good about you , how dare you insulting nurses like that , you should apologise to us ...their is no need for you to send this type of degrading message across to the public Domaine....IT'S OK FOR YOU YOU CAN AFFORD TO GO PRIVATE ....bUT I WILL TELL YOU SOMETHING FOR NOTHING IT'S THE SAME NURSES WHO WILL HAVE TO LOOK AFTER YOU ...SO IF I WAS YOU I WOULD TAKE BACK ALL YOU SAID ...... Disgrace !!!

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  • tinkerbell

    Excellent article Eileen. Sadly this government know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

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  • Anonymous | 5-Dec-2011 8:24 pm

    After all your years of hard work and dedication, it is hardly a fitting farewell from the NMC. Well they are a completely useless and dysfunctional bunch of wasters.

    So on behalf of all those who have benefitted from your care over the years, thank you, thank you, thank you and I hope you enjoy a long and very happy retirement.

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