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'Saving lives enables staff to maintain their morale'


My New Year’s resolution is to complain more.

I know that doesn’t sound like a very fashionable resolve, but it is a result of my inability to constructively criticise hotels, restaurants, airlines and shops. After appalling meals out, I have had friends kidnap my purse just so I can’t leave a tip. Even if the waiter has been monstrously rude, lazy and inefficient, I feel it’s ill-mannered of me not to add 15% to the bill. Unless the waiter has actually decapitated my fellow diners, I’ve always felt he deserves a few extra quid and I never like to make a fuss when things go awry. So this year, I decided to stand up for myself and tell businesses when they’ve got things wrong. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Nurses tell me that no one suffers from my complaint phobia when they enter the NHS. The great British public defends its right to a first-class service. But sometimes they have unrealistic expectations. And it’s nurses who often bear the brunt of that. I’ve spoken to nurses who have been kicked, punched and sworn at. It’s almost become part of the job description, sadly.

Nurses understand why some patients and their relatives get angry, and are amazingly tolerant of bad behaviour that stems from these frustrations. But often complaints are unfounded and unfair. And while anyone can complain about the NHS, sometimes publicly in the press, nurses can’t stand up and fight their corner because they have to protect patient confidentiality. Which is of course right, but terribly frustrating for the falsely accused.

I asked one senior nurse this week how she maintains morale in the face of such negativity. And she took me by the hand and led me to her neonatal unit, where there were incubators of babies born at 26 weeks, all being cared for and all doing really well - something that wouldn’t have happened just a few years ago.

The NHS may have its faults, but it also has millions of amazing success stories. And they - and the nurses who bring them about - are worth celebrating.

Jenni Middleton, editor,


Readers' comments (2)

  • i have been in nursing 34 years and the resilience of my colleagues never cease to amaze me in the face of downright ignorance of a minority of a few .

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  • Patricia Dohman

    i have worked in the nhs since 1984 starting as a domestic then as a nursing assistant in an nhs nursing home for older people with dementia and behavioural issues. now i have been seconded to train as a nurse. i have completed the training now im finding it difficult to get a job. i like where i am but for economic reasons its not feasible for me to move elsewhere. where are the jobs if you are going to train people give them a job.

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