Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Our NHS (again)

There has been quite a lot in the news lately about the lack of compassion in the NHS, and from my limited experience these complaints are fully justified. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary has effectively acknowledged this in a recent speech when he said that he wanted "to be the health secretary who helped transform the culture of the system".
Yesterday, chief nursing officer for England, Jane Cummings, said action must be taken to ensure the values nurses stand for are not betrayed. As a result, she has begun a campaign today to "restore compassion" to nursing care.
Unlike her predecessor who believed in degree level education, she has defined what she believes to be the five "C's" of nursing, care, compassion, courage, commitment and communication. Whilst I am sure that the majority of nurses do in fact have these attributes, there is a sizeable minority who certainly don't and whom appear to have entered nursing merely by accident or mistake and have no real interest in the job. I don't blame all the problems on the nurses, far from it, the administrators would probably be first in my firing line for having put their own needs before those of the patients.

Certainly this was the view of a close friend who had to go into the hospital in Suffolk where she had previously worked as a nurse for some 30 years. Not one of the nurses who looked after her would have met the standards that she would have set when she was in charge, the cleaning of the ward, the toilets and washing facilities was abysmal and there was a general "don't care" attitude displayed by most staff. The computers at the nurses' station appeared more important than the patients!  But as one of her erstwhile colleagues said to her "if you can manage to wander round the administrative corridor, it's a sight worth seeing with its new carpets, plenty of space, latest furniture and proper cleaning".
And this is the problem, the administrators are in a world of their own; gone are the days when a hospital was run almost single handedly by the Hospital Secretary aided by the matron and a few clerical staff. Now administration is the priority, patients come last.

As the new Chief Nursing Officer has acknowledged, part of the problem is "degree level nursing" and indeed this is similar to the problem being experienced in many other fields, particularly teaching, although my own field of engineering is not exempt from such problems. Personally I believe that all those wanting to enter an occupation requiring practical skills should spend a year or so as a trainee before starting their academic studies. In nursing they would work under the supervision of an experienced nurse learning about the various day to day tasks and gaining some skills, but primarily discovering whether they actually want to be part of the profession and are prepared to clear up after an incontinent patient or help a patient with dementia to feed herself. Too many of those who obtain a degree in what is essentially a practical job don't really want to get their hands dirty but to work in an office like their friends who have degrees in other subjects.

Again, I think there are strong arguments for part time study. I had a job in my chosen branch of electrical engineering and studied one day and a couple of evenings per week. I learnt the practical aspects of the job at work, and learnt the theory behind what I was doing at technical college. In due course I obtained qualifications which were considered to be equivalent to a degree and was accepted as a member of the appropriate professional Institution.  This suited both myself and my employer, and more to the point, if I'd decided the work wasn't for me, I could have dropped out without incurring major debts. I suspect too many nurses (and teachers) are in the wrong job, but simply can't change because of the years that they spent at university getting a qualification which is of no use elsewhere, and for which they are still in debt.

I've just noticed in the Mail that Ann Clwyd MP said in parliament that her husband had died ‘like a battery hen’ in the University Hospital of Wales after her repeated pleas for NHS nurses to help him. As usual, the standard words were trotted out by the hospital’s executive director of nursing, who said ‘We will not tolerate poor care which is why it is so important that each incident is fully investigated so that we can drive up standards and provide patients and their families with the quality of care they need and deserve.’
Haven't I heard or read this somewhere else recently?

1 comment:

  1. I agree with everything you say. A friend of mine, who is a hospital consultant, was so appalled at the standard of nursing her mother was receiving in a London hospital, that she employed a team of private nurses to be with her mother all the time she was there.