One of the things I love most about this job is being able to visit people who are working in the frontline of our public services and to listen and learn from them. All of the challenges and issues I read about come to life when I can spend time with people who live and breathe it so I try to do it as often as possible.
Our NHS has been totally clobbered by austerity and the worst, most damaging set of reforms – under former health minister Andrew Lansley – in the history of our health service. We’re still paying the price today.
A fortnight ago it was revealed that government were going to drop the 4 hour target to see patients in A&E. This horrified me. Targets are a blunt tool and maybe we have used too many of them in the past but that doesn’t mean all of them are bad.
The day the target was dropped several local doctors got in touch with me to explain why this target was so important to them. One put it very well, she told me that this target was about protecting the dignity of patients and the humanity with which we care for patients. Why? Because if people are waiting more than four hours in A&E then it means they are very busy and almost certainly treating patients in corridors because all of the treatment rooms are full. As the doctor told me, you simply cannot project the dignity of a patient who is being treated in a corridor, and this is now routine.
And because of Brexit and the terrible loss of nurse nurseries and other pressures in the health service we have a 10% vacancy rate in our local NHS. Isn’t this incredible – mismanagement by government has turned Britain’s most loved institution into one that people are no longer aspiring to work in in the same numbers as in previous times. This has to change.
The University of Brighton has been leading the way on this with a new Nurse Associate training programme. This includes an apprenticeship route into nursing which makes the profession of nursing accessible to new people from all backgrounds and all ages.
I went along to meet some of the trainee nurses recently, and what an amazing bunch they were! I met people in their 50’s who were retraining, people in their 20’s who had never thought about nursing before but were now thrilled and excited and who’s enthusiasm for nursing was completely infectious.
The University of Brighton is currently training 141 Nursing Associates for local employers including NHS trusts. They will bridge a gap between Nursing Assistants and Registered Nurses to deliver additional hands-on care.
As always right now there’s some really good things happening even despite the challenges we face too. I never want to dwell on the negative at the expense of the positive, and my afternoon with so many trainees associate nurses left me full of optimism. It also left realising that whereas I was surrounded by burgeoning medical talent…I lacked it entirely! When I was offered the chance of taking blood from a dummy, I got it spectacularly wrong! So with your permission I’ll carry on this job for a little longer!