When politics and care collide

We need ‘strong and stable nursing’, ‘for the many not the few’.

Sorry about that; I think I have contracted a nasty bout of election-itis.

The bad news is, no matter who wins the NHS faces more years of austerity, as none of the main political parties is promising to spend enough to close the gap between the amount of work the NHS is obliged to do—and the amount of work it is paid to carry out.

Just to cheer you up: health spending as a percentage of GDP is set to fall. Things are going to get tighter. So, who should nurses vote for?

There is an acid test. A test that takes us to a place none of us want to remember. It takes us to a time and events that were painful, beyond belief and that NHS still struggles to live down. Events where nurses where were at the very centre.

The place I am talking about is very different now. It is a very fine, well run hospital, staffed with skilled and enthusiastic nurses. I know, I’ve been there. I’m talking about Mid-Staffs.

The hospital wrote its name in the history books, but not because people were uncaring or stupid. It was because they were driven, by political imperatives, to abandon their purpose—targets instead
of tenderness. Counting the bottom line meant it was no longer possible to count on compassion.

The politicians of the day wanted all hospitals to segue from NHS Trusts to Foundation Trusts. That required a financial rigour they are unable to deliver without cuts, and a focus on the demands of the regulators and not the needs of the patients, relatives and carers. Staffing—the biggest cost—was cut, shortcuts taken.
The front line’s voice could not be heard above the din of the management bugle. So morale plummeted, standards dropped and everyone became inured to suffering.

What turned good, honest, educated, well-trained people into an army of job-fillers?

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