Child branch student editor, Gary Williams, discusses his feelings on the government turning a blind eye to problems facing the nursing profession
Nursing is a vocation they say and I believe most of us would agree, which is good because today the pay certainly doesn’t make nursing an attractive prospect.
The Royal College of Nursing has stated that 30% of its members have, at one time or another, struggled to pay basic bills and 80% of Unison’s members report they have considered leaving the profession this year alone. This is not surprising as in real terms, thanks to Agenda for Change, nurses’ basic salaries have dropped 14% since 2010.
If you are not in the nursing profession or training to be nurse, you may not realise MPs were debating our future careers this week. Danielle Tiplady started a petition asking for a debate of current pay scales which received an overwhelming number of signatures; although this led to a debate, the number of MPs present was shockingly low.
The need to train and recruit more nurses was highlighted during the discussion. Norman Lamb stated that currently there is a nursing shortage of 24,000 and that in the next 10 years one in three nurses will be retiring from the profession.
“Why would someone choose to become a nurse - other than the vocational aspect?”
With low income expectations, a possible curb on recruitment abroad and the bursary disappearing, why would someone choose to become a nurse - other than the vocational aspect?
Catherine McKinnell supported nurses by saying “NHS staff are our greatest asset. Despite the pressures on the NHS driven by an increasingly aged and frail population, nurses, and all our hard-working NHS staff, continue to put patients first, keeping them safe whilst providing the high-quality care patients and their families expect.
“How have we found ourselves in a situation in which hard-working, dedicated, exhausted nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals are genuinely struggling to make ends meet?”
“Nurses don’t always have breaks and often stay well beyond their shift times to help with staff shortages”
In my experience, nurses are not only struggling to make ends meet, they are also exhausted. This is because many do extra shifts through agencies just to boost their income, they don’t always have breaks and often stay well beyond their shift times to help with staff shortages - usually to their detriment.
Take the case of Gillian Pick. Ms Pick crashed her car injuring two people on her way home from a 12-hour night shift after her blood sugar dropped to dangerous levels due to no break being made available to her throughout her shift.
Many of the MPs present at the debate were, or so it appeared, very supportive of following the independent review’s recommendation of looking into the possibility of increasing wages and generally investing more in the NHS as a whole.
“Mr Dunne was not in total support of a pay rise, other than basic cost of living”
However, although health minister, Philip Dunne, said he was proud of the NHS and its staff, he was not in total support of a pay rise, other than basic cost of living.
His reasoning? The financial pressures being placed on the NHS.
He offered reassurance that at the moment no NHS staff will be paid less than the national living wage. He would not, however, comment on the fact that wages are beginning to fall closer and closer to minimum wage.
Mr Dunne closed his response with “I strongly believe that the issue of recruitment and retention is not just about pay. It is about creating a culture in which learning, development and innovation are encouraged. It is about creating an environment where staff want to work, take pride in what they do, and are well motivated and feel safe”.
“We feel motivated in what we do, not for money, but for the sake of our patients”
To this, I would say we all feel motivated in what we do, not for money, but for the sake of our patients. We all go above and beyond what is expected and most nurses are happy to be continually learning and developing.
On the other hand, he and the government need to understand that nurses can only do this if they are totally, 100%, able to commit to the care of their patients without the worry, physical and mental stress that can result from financial difficulties at home.
It is time for the government to truly invest in what is the jewel in our crown. Make the NHS the envy of the modern world by keeping hospitals open, updating and allowing treatments to be available and not removed due to cost, rewarding staff with a decent wage, supporting student nurses so they can concentrate on their learning and development without having to work on top of study and placement, and encouraging staff to stay by making them feel wanted and valued.
As far as I can see, the bones of the NHS have been picked until bare and waste has been reduced as much as possible. Now it is up to the government to find a solution to what is, in fact, a ticking time bomb.