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999 Call for the NHS

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The View from the Inside

By Jenny Shepherd, Apr 30 2016 09:46AM

I am struggling to write my blog this week, hence the delay. This is because my feelings about the NHS and what is happening within it are all over the place.

As a practicing nurse, for me some of the issues within the NHS that I face every shift are about funding, resourcing, and patient safety. These issues are all interconnected and deciphering them into an understandable collection of sentences and arguments is a difficult job. In the words of many a person in a difficult relationship: it is complicated! And this week I’ve struggled to find my place in all of the arguments, the issues, the demands, and the politics.

Firstly, I need to just say that I believe recent struggles to save the NHS ARE political. This will not make me popular amongst some people, lots of who try to keep politics out of the NHS. I don’t think this is possible and a couple of my reasons are these: some political parties appear to be more protective and supportive of the NHS – all political parties have neglected the NHS in some measure – but some are downright obstructive, preferring instead to invite the heads of multi-national private health providers to debate which bits of the NHS they would like to buy; and the NHS is rife with ‘politics’ – I’ve lost count of the number of nursing colleagues who have told me ‘I left because I couldn’t stand the ‘politics”. The NHS is embroiled in politics in both minor and major ways.

However, I always struggle to write my blog. I have a professional code of conduct that means I have a responsibility towards my profession, amongst other things, and I cannot just write in an irresponsible way, no matter how tired or disillusioned I might sometimes feel. However, like my colleagues, I work in the reality that has become the NHS and it can be a very challenging environment. It sometimes seems monolithic, it is an immovable object that will sometimes not countenance change, and its disciples sometimes seem locked in ways of working that have become obsolete. It has its faults.

As a nurse, I see that change is an inevitable part of progress and I want to embrace it and see it impact in a good way on my practice – I am not a nurse who will always just do something that way because ‘that’s the way it’s done’. But the current issues and challenges being faced by the NHS are not about change for good – they are not about unpalatable truths, necessary improvements or cutting wastage. These issues are about castigating and dismantling our NHS. Be under no illusions.

As a nurse, my professional ‘place’ within any of these issues is always to keep my patients safe and advocate for them. Within the context of increasing pressure, this is not as easy as it sounds. In the NHS, I feel under almost constant pressure to see more patients, to do more, to work harder. And, put simply, I cannot do more than I am. Not only is the NHS taking its dying breaths but, I believe, the goodwill of the staff is running out too. Last week I was offered a new job and I turned it down. I turned it down because I couldn’t bear the thought that, by seeing patients, I would be earning money for someone. But I considered it.

This week I witnessed the junior doctors withdraw emergency cover. I worked one of the strike days so I saw first hand what resulted from their action: senior doctors saw patients, assessed, cannulated, monitored and made decisions; they developed plans of care, did take-home prescriptions, and liaised with other practitioners. They cared for our patients. They ensured patient safety was of the highest standard. They went that extra mile. This is not unusual. As a team, our NHS does this daily – reduce the numbers and we will just fight harder for our patients.

Because this is where we are today – we are in a fight for the NHS. We are shouting to be heard amongst the detritus that is now journalism in this country. We are struggling to be heard because there seems to be an apathy towards the NHS, a certain belief that it will always be around and a part of our lives. A lot of the public do not seem to believe that a prescription for an antibiotic could cost them much more than a prescription charge currently does and they do not seem to believe that they could be paying that in the coming years. Without the NHS, the public will be paying for the care they are currently freely given. That’s why I believe this is everyone’s fight, the NHS belongs to us all, and I cannot understand why all the public are not shouting from the rooftops that the NHS is theirs and they are taking it back.

In my blog I have tried to convey a number of things: my love of nursing, some of the current issues surrounding the NHS, and the danger the NHS is in. This danger is current and real – the NHS is dying. It is gasping for air. The shouting of some of the public, the marches, the lobbying, these things are what the NHS needs to continue breathing. Without us, it will die. As a nurse, I love the NHS. Yes, I love it; I hope I have conveyed this. Put simply, I love it because it helps people and, as a nurse, this is always my aim too. The NHS and I are therefore good friends.

I am doing my bit. I am shouting, if not from the rooftops!

I am marching.

I am organising.

I am delivering last breaths.

Are you?

Read more at #nursesroar and #twitternurse

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