Almost unbelievably, Labour is claiming that there’s a secret Tory plot afoot to axe the number of nurses working in the NHS. Amongst others, the Guardian has given up space for conspiracy talk.
Applying the wisdom of Occam’s Razor (the simplest theory is probably the true one), there’s no conspiracy, it’s just that nurses are leaving the NHS faster than they can be replaced. Probably not helped by being accused of laziness by Mr Cameron. Nurses will leave at a faster rate when more of them wise up to the fact that they’re doing a lot of doctor-work for less than a quarter of doctor-pay. When they stop moaning about what’s not in their paypacket, and start moaning about the gap between what they do and what they are paid to do, we’ll see an uptick in nurses leaving. I’m not saying it like it’s a good thing – it’s just that nurses have been underpaid for years because they have been immensely undervalued for years. I understand the emotional, physical and mental pressure that comes from just doing a nursing job; it is like no other. Interestingly Labour claims that most of the losses will be from mental health. I’d concur with that, they’re probably right with that at least – but I’d say the rate of haemorrhage is more in line with nurse burn-out and disillusionment than some Tory plot that’s clearly too clever for its own good. We don’t need a conspiracy; nurses are quite able to take themselves out of the equation without any help from Mr Cameron.
I left my permanent post as a practice nurse a couple of months ago, burned out. I’m just now starting to feel human again. Caring for people properly in an environment of huge regulation, impersonal and often unworkable policies (that you don’t get time to read unless you take them home!) and the lack of respect from some staff and patients makes a tough job even harder. One of my previous colleagues has blown the whistle on her employers three times, and three times has had to find another job. There aren’t enough nurses like her. People like her are hard to find – and I suspect that nursing colleges do not have the places available that are needed to stem the shortfall in the nursing workforce – and I suspect, they are not attracting and recruiting some of the right people to train as nurses.
Nursing’s a mess. It’s not some sordid little plot, it’s a result of generations of disrespect and not being valued. Maybe instead of pointing fingers, politicians like Mr Burnham might want to offer a solution instead.