Thursday, 22 May 2008

Distressed nurses

The vast majority of NHS nurses say they sometimes or always leave work in distress because they can't give patients the dignity and quality of care they would like to give.

They say they are hampered not just by lack of time and staff shortages but by management failures that mean patients have to put up with embarrassing and dehumanising stays.

Patients are often denied single-sex wards, adequate washing and toilet facilities, help with eating and complete privacy when required.

In a Royal College of Nursing poll, 81% said there times when they left work feeling patients had been let down. Some 86% said dignity should be a higher priority.

Surely such issues as appropriate privacy and being able to wash properly are so basic they should be automatically guaranteed without nurses having to complain and make do and apologise to angry patients.

If we wouldn't accept these shortcomings in our own homes, why are they considered acceptable in hospitals, particularly when they just cause further stress to patients already suffering the stress of being hospitalised?

The feeble assurances by government ministers that patients' dignity is a top priority are not convincing when the everday reality is that this is clearly not the case and there is no sign of any radical improvements.

As in so many areas, the government is again fanatically penny-pinching with a vital public service that needs to be urgently upgraded.

There are shedloads of cash available for a new generation of nuclear missiles and a hugely ambitious ID card project, but the tottering NHS is apparently not so deserving. So nurses are left frustrated and despairing.


Anonymous said...

And nurses can be truly be incredible people. I still think of some of those amazing people who nursed my father when he was dying. They weren't just helping him but helping all of us too. Just amazing how kind and helpful and thoughtful and respectful they were. They made the hardest experience that bit easier to get through. They are paid nowhere near enough.

Nick said...

Conor, so many people say that, that nurses helped them to get through really tough and traumatic situations. They see the importance of patients' dignity at times like that but they so often see it taken away.

Fate's Granddaughter said...

I couldn't agree more, Nick. And the problem doesn't stop at the NHS - in my experience it extends into social services as well.

Situations like these are how we lose the professionals who are in the job because they genuinely care. The more compassionate you are, the harder your job becomes when you see that your hands are tied at every turn.

Nick said...

FG - Yes, I worked for a social services department once so I know social workers have similar problems. As you say, the ones who really care the most are often those who jack it in - but they're exactly the ones we need.

Baino said...

Nick my mother was a nurse and to her it was a vocation not just a job. Fortunately, she didn't have to 'rely' on her income but many do and it's a pittance unless you get into the administrative side of nursing with little patient contact. They are so undervalued here that attracting young ones into the profession is now a Government priority, we're yet to see whether their recruitment tactics will work. I'm with Conortje and had a similar experience with community nurses during my own father's illness. They spent as much time with the family as they did caring for him.

Nick said...

Baino - The starting salaries for NHS nurses are pretty low (about £19,000) so it's still very much a vocation here too. Working conditions are so poor that annual nurse turnover rates are over 30% in some hospitals. I can only applaud those nurses who are so passionate about the job that they carry on despite everything.

Wisewebwoman said...

Isn't it the same everywhere, Nick? I remember the days when just about every patient was assigned their own nurse for heaven's sake, and no one complained about cost and nurses were considered totally professional and well paid. Those were the days of real kitchens and real nutrionists in hospitals too. Now all of that is outsourced with frankenfoods poured onto toxic plastic ware and slopped up to the patient. Blech.
And the (very few) nurses are run off their feet.
When will we accord the same funds to Health and Education as we do to military might?
Rant over.

Nick said...

www - I don't remember the days of a nurse for each patient, as I have very little experience of hospitals, but clearly that's what we need. And some families actually bring in food for patients because the hospital food is so inadequate. Some patients leave hospitals with the same malnutrition they went in with.