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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Who looks after the nurses?
Nursing is facing a crisis. One in five trainee nurses fail to complete their training and hospitals are finding it more and more difficult to recruit and retain good nursing staff.
Twenty per cent of nurses who do qualify don't want to work in the NHS, and unless there is a radical overhaul of the way nurses are trained and employed many health managers feel there will be a crisis on the wards.
If you are a nurse or work in the health service, do you think the political parties understand the nursing situation. All parties say they value the work nurses do, but is that enough?
I am a nurse. This is not the best time to work for the NHS but the eighties and nineties were far worse. The NHS suffered eighteen years of systematic and deliberate neglect by the Tories. We must stick with either Labour or the Lib Dems, or the Tories will finish the job they started.
Once a proud profession, nursing has succumbed to an overall change in society. In the past life could be directed towards the common good. Now, austerity rules and money is more important than humanity.
I used to think that the Conservatives stood for individual liberty (at least in principle). I heard the shadow health secretary saying that it is immoral to bring nurses from countries like the Philippines. Who are you to decide for those nurses who are willing to work? Is this not collectivism? On one side you seem to stand for individualism, but when it suits you. You have no moral justification to deny those poor nurses for whom coming here to work is a dream come true. It seems that you are determined to get to power at the cost of your fundamental political philosophy.
I am about to begin training as a nurse. Ahead of me is four years of very hard work to obtain my degree. What is the government doing to help me get through this? Well, first there is the simple fact that if and when I do finish, I will be about £15,000 in debt to various companies and my starting wage will only be about £10,000. After that, there are my career prospects: I am lucky I have the freedom to move around the country to get promoted, but too many people do not have that luxury. Many people have asked me recently why I want to be a nurse in Britain in these times and quite simply I don't. I just want the qualification. I do not want to work in the NHS today.
Laura, Leeds, England
It's not surprising that graduate nurses will look at the opportunities enjoyed by their peers, and seek the same. Making nursing a graduate-only profession was a backward step. Reintroducing the enrolled grade nurse with a proper career structure would give thousands of young men and women the chance to join the NHS, who are at present academically excluded.
It's all very well saying that there will be 20,000 more nurses by 2004, but the government needs to concentrate on ways of keeping the nurses they already have. They should introduce incentives such as free transport for those that work in London. If it can be done for police, why can it not be done for nurses? If we felt a bit more valued, we might stay in the profession.
Twenty five years ago, nurses were not paid well. Today their pay is an insult to the demands placed on a profession that has expanded and developed to meet the needs of a changing health service. Nurses are now managed by people who neither understand nor value their work. Although appropriate financial reward is important, nurses have left the profession in their droves because the system does not allow them to deliver the kind of care they are trained for.
There is a lot of natural wastage because of retirement. There has to be a reform in training methods - positive action to help students. I would ask for the reintroduction of enrolled nurse training to fill gaps and to give nursing assistants a chance to have a qualification. It worked well before and is a good stepping-stone to further training.
How can you expect to recruit more nurses when you only give them a grant which amounts to £1.50 per hour?
Morale is dropping and staffing problems are on the increase. Labour have only fiddled the figures since it will take several terms of government to really improve the NHS. I don't think the NHS should be run by politicians at all given the failures of the past 20 years.
Stephen, Bradford, UK
The instant answers are no, and no.
More than 20% of nurses are nearing retirement age, and whilst some of the present changes to the NHS may help, the sheer volume of paperwork is drawing yet more experienced staff away from patient care. The recent "Essence of Care" document, which outlines standards to be met in eight key areas of care, runs to 198 pages!
As to being valued, that is nothing but a variation on kissing babies. When I began nursing, we had financial parity with the police, and teachers. Not for a long time now. Even before the last teachers' pay rise, and after the nurses' much trumpeted one, we lagged behind again.
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