Understandably, the inquiry on Mid Staffs has been a major part of virtually every conversation I’ve had with healthcare professionals since it started a few days ago.
Regardless of their discipline, or whether the person I’ve been talking to has been in an acute or primary situation, they have all raised concerns that our current financial backdrop and the news that nearly 27,000 jobs could go from the NHS, will mean that another Mid Staffs is “inevitable”. A chilling remark considering that as we go to press, news emerged of another tragic case at the same trust. It could, of course, be totally coincidental, but with the trust in the spotlight, it’s unsurprising that people will make a connection even if there isn’t one.
The Royal College of Nursing says care will suffer as a result of the job losses, despite the government’s diktat that the cuts must not jeopardise these standards. Even trusts with the keenest management skills, which manage to hang onto their nurses, midwives and other healthcare workers, will find it hard to lose this number of staff without stretching nurses beyond their traditional roles. Those nurses who retain their jobs may well have to absorb the to-do lists of their administrative peers to keep their trusts running. Maybe soon we’ll see nurses with one hand on the calculator and another on the cardiac monitor.
Productive Ward programmes were developed to release time to care. We must make sure this time is used for exactly that purpose - and not for taking up the slack of fulfilling the duties left in the wake of clerical colleagues.
Elsewhere last week, the RCN was presented with the Rolls of Honour, featuring the names of more than 2,000 nurses who lost their lives in the two world wars.
At the eve of Remembrance Day ceremony, I met 92 year old Betty Barker, who was a nurse in Cardiff during the Second World War. She told me how the soldiers refused to leave their beds when the air-raid warnings started, and she would have to stay and tend to them as the bombs dropped. Proof indeed of the tremendous effort made by nurses in the toughest of times.