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The NHS is going the same way as a Swiss ski slope


I have never been to Switzerland but I like to think of it as a neat and tidy country with skiing facilities and interestingly shaped chocolate.

They tend not to get involved in the nonsense of wars, which I think marks them as civilised, and so I assume they are engaged in more progressive things like bobsleighing or philosophy. This caricatured perception was borne out this week with news that the Swiss are having a national referendum to decide if animals should be given the constitutional right to be represented in court.

It is, of course, a brilliantly absurd idea and we can only hope the Swiss vote “yes”. Who doesn’t want to see a group of kittens take a man to court for trying to drown them in a weighted sack? And how cool will it be when every cow in Europe mounts a collective case against all meat eaters demanding not only the banning of beef, but also fiscal remuneration for the brutal oppression of cows throughout history? And full voting rights.

‘I’ve said it before and will say it again - to rescue our NHS, we need it to become independent of the meddling of petty minded self interested politicians’

Except, legislating against cruelty won’t save the cows. We’ll still kill them - but there may be some rules put in place to ensure we don’t tease them first. Because essentially that’s what modern rules are for: to temper behaviour that will not change. Or to put it another way: to halfheartedly put fingers into dams and hope that, when the water crashes through, the wet people won’t blame you.

According to last week’s Sunday Times Lord Darzi commissioned three reports to assess the progress of the NHS as its 60th birthday approached in 2008. We shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose, that the less than kind conclusions were not made public.

At the heart of the reports was the failure of the targets system introduced over the previous 10 years to make healthcare provision better. The reports observed that: ‘the patient does not seem to be in the picture.’ Essentially, our healthcare system cannot see the wood for all the pesky processes and reorganisations. We have quangos and managerialism; we have jargon, self important senior administrators and a culture of fear among clinicians to oppose unhelpful directives. What we don’t have is a clear and simple investment in processes and language that support patient wellbeing.

I have said it before and will say it again. In order to at least attempt to rescue our health service, we need it to become independent of the meddling of petty minded self interested politicians. Unable to understand the best of health provision, they try to turn it into something they do understand - a bureaucracy. If the Bank of England can be independent so can the health service. But in addition to this liberation we need articulate and confidant nurses to be more involved with the politics of healthcare; we need people who are unafraid to talk about the humanity of good care and the qualities of tenderness and compassion that have to underpin it. That voice has been absent for far too long and, until it is heard, the patient will remain out of the picture.


Readers' comments (3)

  • Hear hear.

    The NHS should be run by Nurses and Doctors, you know, the people who actually know what we are doing with patients? And not by the government or pathetic self important middle managers.

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  • I should not use this post for a subject that is outside Nursing, but I cannot leave your mockery about the Swiss attempt to legislate for the protection of animals without a counter argument.

    Every action that goes towards the protection of animals is a victory for humanity.
    I hope that you would act whether you see your neighbor beating his dog to death by calling the Cruelty line 0300 1234 999.
    Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in UK, animals have rights, although penalties against perpetrators remain weak.
    In the Antique Greece, it was normal to think that plants were for animals, animals for humans, slaves for masters, women for men and men for God. Have we changed? Yes, we have on many things, especially human rights. A woman is no longer the property of a man in many parts of the world. An animal should not be seen as a commodity but as a living creature with the right to live and be respected.

    Having said that digressively , I totally agree with you regarding the constant ill-interference of the political forces within the NHS. I like the way you describe this non-sense: “Unable to understand the best of health provision, they try to turn it into something they do understand - a bureaucracy”. Excellent!

    Abel Sidhoum (RN)

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  • British nurse in Switzerland.
    Come and see for yourself and taste the delicious chocolate and ski down the slippery ski slopes. Your expectations of the land and the high quality of the health services, and especially the nursing, are exemplary and would not be disappointed. Working conditions during my time were excllent and a joy to be a part of (with highly trained and professional, polite, friendly and caring colleagues, with clean wards and office work space totally free of any clutter (with everything in its place), ergonomic and visually pleasing, often with outstanding views of the lakes and mountains and smart, practical and comfortable uniforms and no petty distinctions between rank and colours. We were all there with the same goal - i.e. if anyone outside Switzerland needs a reminder, that is the paitents, and each as an individual needing individualised care) or to be a patient in (if you have no other choice - with small comfortable and immaculate rooms with TV, telephone and bedside radio as standard, clean linen every day, en-suite shower and w.c. and hotel-style catering i.e. good quality food, daintily and appetizingly served according to diet, personal choice, and size of appetite, and first class nursing, medical and interdisciplinary care - and all this included in basic minimum package - not private. The only difference between this and private is the extortionate cost of private insurance, a single room instead of a two-bedded room and you get to chose your own consultant).
    Why can't the sadly rundown NHS open their ears, eyes and minds and learn by example of other countries where things are neat and tidy and go like clockwork. Its not a question of lack of funding but largely the way resources are used.
    By the way we voted against lawyers representing animals in every canton as they already exist in some cantons and throughout the land animals are highly protected, probably more than any other country. The motion was put forward by a group of individuals and not by the government and seemed rather idealist and would have been very costly to implement - taxpayers money.
    New laws came into force in 2008 which includes one for small pets kept in cages such as guineapigs, hamsters, rabbits, birds of all kinds, etc. They must be kept in pairs or more and not in isolation. Very well explained in the article From The Times, April 26, 2008 entitled 'New Swiss law protects rights of 'social' animals'. A friend of mine is very concerned that the the British Government might get to hear of the laws and use them to apply to humans so we will no longer be allowed to live on our own!

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