Long comment from one of my readers follows. It is pertinent to this, though:
“I used to be a nurse for many years. I trained under the old system before Project 2000. I’ve never worked as hard, been so tired or enjoyed a job more in my life. After training I went on permanent night duty in a busy A&E department in a smallish hospital. It was a great, friendly place to work and because during the night there were always fewer staff on duty we all supported and relied on each other. We would often have crazy busy nights when it got to around 5am before anyone got chance to sit down with a brew. We gave our all for our patients because that was why we were there and this fact alone was for me the reason why I got so much job satisfaction, despite the crap wages.
“Then along came Thatcher and her divide and rule ‘quasi-market’ ideology for the NHS. Suddenly we were not all one hospital any more but an NHS Trust divided into Directorates. Staffing levels started to drop. We were instructed to order cheaper equipment such as substandard paper gowns with no sleeves in and nothing to tie them together at the back so patients felt exposed and embarrassed wearing them or the cheaper intravenous drip tubes made by some company connected with Tory MP John Gummer that somehow never worked properly…cheaper dressings, cheaper everything.
“Each Directorate had its own nursing budget and the responsibility for this was devolved down to chief Nursing Officers (NOs). This had some perverse consequences such as the NO of the Medical Directorate who was responsible for the cardiac arrest team telling the NO of the Surgical Directorate she’d reached her monthly quota for call outs of the team so any further use of this service would have to come out of the surgical budget…a huge row broke out. Nurse was set against nurse and morale began to suffer.
“I have no idea what its like to work in the NHS now but what I do know from recent experience as a patient is that wards are chronically understaffed. Despite this I received excellent care from nurses and doctors alike. They saved my life. This nurse baiting is a typical Tory tactic not unlike their attack on benefit recipients. Its lazy and dishonest politics, its unfair and its ugly.”


Last year, I highlighted some ‘corporate doublespeak’ on the part of a Chief Executive of an NHS Trust to the Health Select Committee of MPs. When asked about nurse numbers, Philippa Slinger, the CEO of Heatherwood and Wexham Trust, told MPs:

I have recruited 350 staff in the last year, including qualified nurses and midwives.

Suspicious that this phrasing might cover a multitude of sins, I submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request to the hospital asking for details – both of the breakdown of the new recruitments and of unfilled positions at the Trust relative to its ‘funded establishment’ (the total number of positions it should be filling).

The answer showed how misleading the CEO’s statement was:

New nurses recruited (whole-time equivalent of WTE):  90.65

WTE nurse positions not filled:   206.57

Last month, with the aid of a couple of wonderful accomplices, I put in…

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