Two contrasting events occurred this month. Both stirred my emotions. More NHS bad news was splashed all over the media. On the front page of The Guardian, “Hospital faces claim of cancer care cover-up. Police considering allegations that delays to treatment put lives at risk”. Despite living and working over a hundred miles from Colchester I was upset. As an NHS nurse, I felt connected to the allegations of poor care.
Sadly, it is possible to imagine the pressures on staff in Essex. Once again the NHS, an organisation that I am immensely proud to work for and trust to deliver timely, excellent care to me should I require it, was under the media spotlight for the wrong reasons.
Later, in my tray at work there was an envelope, obviously containing a card. My first reaction was “surely not a Christmas card in the first week of November?” Inside the envelope was a card from a former patient saying: “I just wanted to say thank you for all the care that you and your colleagues gave to me when I was first diagnosed with HIV back in 2003. I [have] reached a small personal milestone… It is now 10 years since my diagnosis. Looking back I appreciate how important the support and information that you gave me was, particularly in those crucial early stages.
“You empowered me to take control and inspired me to have a positive mental attitude towards my status as a gay man living with HIV.”
I share this, not to blow my own trumpet, nor even that of the service that I work in. It represents the satisfaction experienced, but not always articulated, by patients and users of public health services. Every day, throughout the NHS there are patients being empowered and inspired to live positively by nurses and others. Hundreds and thousands of them. It’s just that the media isn’t reporting this, so the public doesn’t generally hear about it.
I worry that the media’s tendency to give prominence to bad news overshadows the multiple unreported good news stories, presenting the public with a distorted picture and undermining confidence in the care provided in many of their local NHS services.
When hearing bad news stories it is important for nurses not to be downhearted and to keep striving to deliver timely, excellent care as so many do, day in, day out, year after year. It might not be headline news, but word of mouth may be quietly spreading the good news that patients and service users are often immensely satisfied with the care that they have received or witnessed.
Nursing in the health service is a privilege and a pleasure. Every one of us has the power to “do good” in our own corners of the NHS. Let’s keep on doing good wherever we work, believing that empowering, inspiring nursing care acts as a daily antidote to the critical storm that sometimes rails around us and our patients.
Martin Jones is clinical nurse specialist HIV at East Sussex Healthcare Trust