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A Nurse's Voice

The struggle for the NHS is ongoing, and long may it continue. The Junior Doctor struggle has, of course this week passed through the High Court with a ruling that some see as a win, some see as a loss. I have to say at the outset, I am filled with admiration for my Justice for Health colleagues - how many of us would put our names and our careers out there for all to see and engage in such a public battle? For me it has been a breathtakingly brave journey and these Doctors will remain in my mind for many years. Currently, despite their best efforts, it looks like the Junior Doctor contract will be imposed, despite Mr Hunt’s assertions that he didn’t intend this. What does it all mean?

My understanding is that this contract was designed to address a truly seven-day NHS but essentially in a cost-neutral way, meaning no extra funding. This means that imposing the Junior Doctor contract stretches an already under-resourced workforce across a seven-day period. Let’s be clear, our current NHS workforce struggles to cope with the demands placed on it now and, as many have argued, without further resourcing this contract cannot safely be achieved.

As has been debated by many, with no further resourcing this means that Doctors will be doing unsafe shift patterns and this will have an inevitable impact on the role of the nurse, on our patients and on overall NHS service provision because there are only so many Doctors to go around.

Long shift patterns leading to severely disrupted sleep patterns and resulting tiredness, and leaving little time to socialise or have a life could lead to more mistakes, in an environment where mistakes are costly.

As Doctors have claimed, the imposition of the new contract will result in Doctors leaving the NHS at a time when more, not fewer, are needed.

To me, this contract seems a bit like punishing NHS Doctors for working hard, going the extra mile, and sometimes working on goodwill alone. My colleagues work tirelessly to make patients better; in the NHS we try to make life easier and safer for patients; we work collaboratively to ensure the very best outcome is achieved for patients - we have no desire to see the NHS fail, to see its demise, or to take part in its wholesale destruction.

Nurses, Doctors and allied healthcare professionals want our patients to get well, we want our patients to have a good experience of our care and we strive to deliver a service that the public will be happy with. So, when the same public ask why the NHS isn’t working any more, I would advise that they look to this government, not NHS staff. Quite frankly, we can’t work any harder.

This would be a good place to say that I absolutely love my job! Seriously, it is the most rewarding career in the world. My patients and my colleagues make being a nurse worthwhile. And working in an organisation like the NHS is priceless. The teamwork in the NHS is breathtaking - on an average day a nurse like me can talk to at least six other practitioners about one patient; such conversations take place to ensure the right pathway for the patient, often to keep them safe.

This week I like to think that, with the assistance of many others, I have helped several patients to cope with damaging physical and emotional symptoms; sometimes with medication, sometimes with a listening ear, sometimes with a hug, sometimes by arranging another step on their journey, and always with empathy - the possibilities to help someone are endless and my job affords me this privilege. It can be the most rewarding of things to lighten someone’s burden.

I will continue to fight for the NHS and my patients - because to me these two are inextricably intertwined. My patients deserve the best of care and I believe that the NHS delivers it.

So, I will march for the NHS, I will shout for it and I encourage all parties to do the same. I will fight further NHS cuts to budgets. I will continue to support my colleagues - their input is vital for patient welfare and, importantly, they are good human beings.

I will do this because I believe the NHS does work; it sees record numbers of patients every day; to listen to the media however, we fail at every juncture. So who is right? Only the public can solve this conundrum by declaring what they want, what works, and by being open about what we do well; until they do, the sand in the hour-glass is slowly flowing towards a breakdown of the NHS that no collaboration, no medication and no hug will fix.

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