Happy 70th Birthday NHS

Congratulations to a service that has saved many lives and brought better health to many over the years. I have worked in and loved this organisation for over 43 years, before retiring a few years ago at 63 years of age, tired and disillusioned with how things had changed. I watch with horror prophesies of its demise.

I progressed through the ranks of student, staff nurse, ward sister, working in many roles in A/E, renal dialysis and transplantation and numerous wards both surgical and medical. I genuinely loved caring for people and being able to do it properly. That’s not to say we had an easy time of it, we regularly went off duty late totally exhausted. Some things never change. It was perceived as a vocation and expected of you. I trained later on in health visiting believing health prevention and promotion the way forward. I therefore do feel able to comment on its current situation.

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The advances made in treatments and life saving techniques are awe-inspiring, something the NHS did not automatically foresee in its inception and struggles now to fulfil. However, throwing vast sums of money into it will not automatically remedy, it needs to be used wisely.

A snapshot of my training and early decades in nursing at St. Anthony’s Hospital give a very different picture to what we see now of units over filled, with no beds, no staff and patients on trolleys in corridors. How did this happen?

Nurse training used to be ward based interspersed with blocks of learning in the classroom. No degrees but the proud recipient of being called a State Registered Nurse. Matron and Sister were awe-inspiring, from their discipline to their knowledge. If sister said jump you asked how high? Since Project 2000 nurse selection and training changed, to be fair it was to raise a nurse’s profile and recognize their time of study. However, it then required a level of academia and assignment writing that took away from nursing its main role of care. The term mini doctors often quoted. It also brought in a university based undergraduate style of training at odds with what it really needed to be.

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My first year of training was spent cleaning, doing routine observations and measurements and washing and feeding patients. This allowed you to talk to them and allay anxieties and ensure their nutrition and hydration was maintained, the key elements to recovery. Yes, we were rushed off our feet to complete all the tasks deemed necessary then, some obviously good to see the back off, like waking patients at the crack of dawn to complete things before the day staff came on!

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As we progressed through the years we learnt our skills under supervision of staff or sister and passed practical as well as written exams. The uniform was worn with pride, no jewellery, hair off the collar and skirt length regularly appraised. It may well feel cumbersome to nurses today but didn’t encumber our nursing or hygiene, in fact made you feel professional. Would seeing an airline pilot in scrubs inspire the same confidence. It may not affect his ability but certainly makes them stand out and be professional. I accept some areas scrubs are essential but not in all.

Where has all the elderly care funding gone? No wonder hospitals designed for emergency or surgical care are full of people requiring say a convalescent bed elsewhere or proper domiciliary care with more than a 15 min home visit a day to wash feed and treat them properly.

What about mental health services? Why are they the poor relation when again the A/E departments are trying so hard to sort their problems out with a derogatory effect on others?

Why so many managers with job descriptions that defy belief, when these roles were very adequately carried out by the ageing nursing/medical force who no longer wanted the rigours of hands on?

Why waste money on new computer systems every few years that incur cost and retraining because they fail to deliver?

Why waste money on supplies that could be purchased cheaper elsewhere?

Why have targets like time waiting in A/E that do not reflect good care and treatment?

At last the powers that be recognise that GP services need to be extended outside Mon- Friday 9-5 to reduce the overload on A/E. Now that they are no longer single-handed GP’s working 24 hours a day they could reintroduce an on call system that covered weekends and nights instead of relying on out of hours’ systems who do not know the patients.

I have visited patients and been an in-patient myself since retiring and have witnessed brilliant care but also some poor examples. It truly can be a post code lottery.  Watching the care my daughter received giving birth at our local NHS maternity unit made me swell with pride. Professional, caring, kind and quickly reactive to a change in circumstances with no fuss or panic. They should be proud of their service as we are grateful. This care needs to be consistent across the country to show the NHS at its best.

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If we want a good NHS we must rethink how hospitals are run before it is too late.

Jan

XOXO

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