I was talking with a friend who works at the local hospital the other day. It was an eye opening chat.
Nurses, even those on critical care wards, are expected to work 13 hour shifts with a 30 minute break. Insane, right?
Hahaha – just joking. In order to get that 30 minute break it is up to them to make sure they ‘manage their time’ (presumably by persuading the patients not to go into heart failure at an inconvenient moment?). ‘Acceptable’ levels of staffing are now down to a bare minimum, meaning that even minor glitches leave the team short staffed. Again, it is apparently down to the nursing team to ‘manage’ this by filling in a form confirming that they have requested additional support from other wards (pretty much all of which are also working on a skeleton staff so good luck with that) and then running ragged for the duration of their shift trying to keep everyone alive and – ideally - comfortable. It is not unusual for a nurse to come off a 13 hour shift having barely managed to find time for a cup of tea or a wee, let alone a proper break.
Would you want someone working in those conditions looking after you, or someone you love, when critically ill? Me neither.
This is the direct result of deliberate policy decisions made by this government, enforcing health trusts to ‘Do more with less’ - only not in an episode of (the ever perspicacious) W1A, but when actual lives are at stake.
The government recently ‘backed down’ in the face of overwhelming public opinion and agreed a wage increase for nurses but - of course there’s a but - it is contingent on ‘productivity improvements’.
Someone is going to need to define for me what ‘productivity’ means in a healthcare context. Is it preventing people from getting sick (despite savage cuts to community care, social care and health education budgets)? Miraculously healing one and all? Nursing staff growing extra pairs of hands (ideally at the end of Mr Tickle arms, the better to reach between beds) while medics manufacture additional hours in the day for consultations, and technicians adapt their systems and equipment so they can effectively scan/x-ray/probe multiple patients simultaneously for the same cost (patient care clearly a frippery)?
The productivity caveat, then, is presumably a lazy ruse to placate the tabloids (‘Yeay Tories!’) while shifting the blame for declining standards onto the very staff that are screaming from the rooftops that the ‘squeeze’ has long passed constrictor levels.
It seems to me that this can only be part of a deliberate policy to undermine the NHS in order to justify privatization, moving towards the sort of ludicrous US system that sees people having to set up fundraising pages to minimise the extent of their medical bankruptsy on top of dealing with ill health or an accident, or decide whether their child with a chronic condition receives essential care while the family loses everything. We all rely on the NHS – good luck getting your company health insurance to cover you when the serious shit hits! It is arguably our greatest national treasure.
The last Labour government was far from perfect, but waiting lists and systemic issues have multiplied terrifyingly since the Tories took over.
That really isn’t because the staff can’t be arsed all of a sudden.