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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: BEVERLEY MALONE DECEMBER 1ST, 2002
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DAVID FROST: And now to the fire fighters battle for a 40 per cent pay rise looking no closer to ending as they prepare for a second eight-day strike on Wednesday. But another group of public sector workers, nurses and health service workers have been offered a very similar deal in some ways to the one offered to the fire fighters, up to 16 per cent over three years linked to modernisation. It's the type of deal the government would like to agree with other workers but the nurses haven't yet said whether or not they'll accept it. Joining me now is the head of the nurses' professional association, The Royal College of Nursing, Beverley Malone, good morning.
BEVERLEY MALONE: Good morning.
DAVID FROST: It sounds in a, in a time when there isn't a lot of good news around, but the successful culmination of these negotiations which have taken years, is good news, is it?
BEVERLEY MALONE: I feel that it's very good news that we have a proposal, we're not all the way home yet, we have to go before our council and they have to analyse it, look at it and then decide how to recommend it to our members and our members will make the final decision. But it has been four long, tortuous years in terms of the negotiation and we're very pleased to be at this point.
DAVID FROST: And how, how long will the consultation period last, they're hoping to start with 12 trial areas in the middle of next year aren't they?
BEVERLEY MALONE: Well we believe that depending on how council will want to do the consultation it may vary, but I would think within a two month period we should be able to do it.
DAVID FROST: But surely if you've been negotiating for four years you already know what your members want, you'll know they want this or not want this, don't you, because you keep in touch with your members all the while...
BEVERLEY MALONE: Well of course...
DAVID FROST: For four years of whatever, so you could be pretty confident that they will say yes?
BEVERLEY MALONE: Well when you're coming up with a proposal it means give and take on both sides and so now we have to look at the total package and that total package won't even be presented until January and we have to know very clearly and present it to our members in a very clear way, that they can make the decision because while we represent them we have to know what they think about this. This is the first time we've had an overhaul of the pay system in 20 years and we want to do it right, we want to make sure that there's no repeat of past mistakes and how it's implemented. We want to make sure it's good for nurses.
DAVID FROST: And we hear lists of the modernisations that are being required of the fire fighters and so on, the various things that they've got to learn and got to do and not to ban overtime and part time workers and all of that. In the case of nursing what does modernisation mean, what are the modernisation things that have been agreed, how do you modernise nurses?
BEVERLEY MALONE: I have to say that we've been leading the modernisation effort in the NHS in terms of extending our practice, prescription privileges, we're prescribing now, we're doing minor surgeries, we're leading clinics, respiratory clinics, rheumatoid arthritis clinics, diabetes clinics. You see nurses doing innovative, creative things and it's not just because of the pay, it's, we've been doing it all along, I call us the invisible glue, we will finally get acknowledged with this potential proposal that if our members accept it may help.
DAVID FROST: And finally recognised by government you mean, and by the public?
BEVERLEY MALONE: The public has always held us very close to their hearts...
DAVID FROST: Yes they have...
BEVERLEY MALONE: But the money has never followed, or the career opportunities and so here we are in the middle of a huge shortage and it's going to take that pay wage, it's going to take the career change to make it happen for nurses this day.
DAVID FROST: And in terms of the NHS you come, obviously, with great experience from the States, how does the NHS look to you, is it one of the greatest inventions ever, is it better than the way medicine is conducted in America or less good?
BEVERLEY MALONE: Well it depends on what you're looking at. If you're looking at the basic underlying principle of the NHS there is nothing to compare to it, it is the truth that all health care is related to all of us and it has to be accessible to everyone. But if you're looking at different individual pieces you could say that in terms of public health the US is very clear that all 50 states, that there has to be an overall public health that my health is dependent on your health, so it depends on how you're looking at it. But I would give the NHS all the gold stars possible for the fact that it is accessible, universally acceptable system.
DAVID FROST: Yes because in fact all the fears we see have, while we're going up to eight per cent or whatever in the NHS, figures you see about America are 13 and 14 per cent of the budget goes on health?
BEVERLEY MALONE: Yes and then there's about 30 million that have no insurance and about another 30 million who are under insured so it's an incredible large number of people who do not have access to healthcare and to me that puts the NHS here and US here
DAVID FROST: Oh well that, that's very good news. The one thing is is it ever possible to fully modernise something as big as the NHS?
BEVERLEY MALONE: What I believe is that nurses are doing it already and they're doing it with our colleagues who are social workers, pharmacists, physiotherapists, you name them we're doing it with them. But I believe that we are already headed in the right direction, the potential proposal has all the potential to make it happen. It's going to take more than that, it's going to take flexible working conditions, it's going to take making sure that we're working together as a team, that the patient stays at the centre of care. But that's really what nursing is all about, keeping patients at the very centre of all the care.
DAVID FROST: Beverley thank you very much indeed.
BEVERLEY MALONE: Thank you so much.
DAVID FROST: Very good to have you with us. Beverley Malone there on the Royal College of Nursing's position on this.
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