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Last Updated: Monday, 24 April 2006, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Nurses: 'Not the NHS's best year'
By Nick Triggle
BBC News health reporter in Bournemouth

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has hailed it as the "best year ever" for the NHS.

It comes at a time when jobs are being cut and wards closed as NHS trusts struggle to balance the books.

So what do nurses make of the health secretary's claim?

Sandra Stickland, 61, a nurse at Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow, Essex

Sandra Strickland
Sandra Strickland: "Claim is rubbish"

"We have been lucky that our chief executive is trying to make savings without making any redundancies.

"But it is difficult for staff, you do wonder what will happen and you get worried about your future.

"For Patricia Hewitt to say it is the best year ever is rubbish."

Marie McQuirk, a community nurse in north Warwickshire

"The point is that in some areas services are good, but in others they aren't.

"It is a lottery. Improvements have been made, waiting lists have come down. A&E is much quicker. But now we are seeing jobs go.

"The problem is that changes are happening too quickly.

"Primary care trusts are being reconfigured, we are facing another round of mergers. But it is only five years since they were created.

"They were meant to take that amount of time to bed down."

Jane Matchett, 49, an agency nurse at the Norfolk and Norwich NHS Trust

"I work in palliative care and have seen my hours cut from 40 or 50 hours to about 20 hours a week.

"This means patients suffer. No one is filling in for the agency nurse hours that are being cut.

"We are the nurses who help people get back in their homes, so the NHS is making problems for itself.

"Everyone working in the NHS is getting really fed up with this.

"I feel the government has gone backwards, we had all this investment and now they are cutting jobs."

Catherine Heslop, a theatre nurse at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead

"We are seeing a lot of agency staff being dropped.

Catherine Heslop
Catherine Heslop sees no improvement for patients

"This is harming care. My trust is talking about laying off 100.

"This is not the best year for the NHS. I can't really see an improvement for patients.

"However, for staff who are employed, things have got better.

"Working is becoming more flexible, we have carers' leave and an increased holiday entitlement.

"The only problem is trying to take the holiday. It is hard when we are understaffed."

Anne Topping, a nurse at the George Eliot Hospital in Warwickshire, with over 40 years experience

"I cannot see how this is the best year for the NHS.

Anne Topping
Anne Topping 'Patients don't want choice'

"We have seen jobs being cut, wards close and operations delayed.

"It is very hard for staff working in the NHS. And while some areas have improved, it is not across the board.

"The government points out things are getting better, patients have choice they say. But they don't.

"Patients don't know what it means and nor do staff. They just want good local hospitals."

Michele Evans, a former NHS nurse now working in the private sector

"There is too much bureaucracy in the NHS.

Michele Evans
Michele Evans: 'Too much paperwork'

"I worked on a management level for the government's breast screening programme and found I was constantly having to show what we were doing, if we were hitting targets, rather than getting on with screening.

"But I also have had experience from a consumer point of view. My dad has dementia and my daughter has had her tonsils out.

"In both cases, when they needed care, they got it quickly. I think on many levels patients will now see things have improved so it is a good year in some respects.

"I would not rule out coming back to the NHS."

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