The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Congress is underway this week and Dr. Peter Carter, the General Secretary, has announced the publication of some research on nurse recruitment and how this will affect the NHS.  Apparently, young people do not want to come in to nursing for reasons such as not liking blood.

I am afraid that to me this research is not addressing the real problems.  The RCN claims that nursing needs to be promoted in a better light by government to encourage school leavers to consider it as a profession.  This will make no difference what so ever.  NHS nursing is facing a crisis because the NHS is a failing system, nurses are being turned into administrators and the allocators of scarce resources.  While they are busy at their computers, unqualified assistants are being left to attempt patient care, 10% of patients are getting health care acquired infections and between 40% and 60% of NHS inpatients are suffering from some degree of malnutrition.  Add this to working in a system where you have to care for patients who are dying because NICE has decided that the drugs that would save them are too expensive.  Why would anyone consider going in to nursing to have to put up with this?

During my recent stay in a private hospital in london I met with a number of nurses who had left the NHS to work in the private sector.  Interestingly, many of them had not been lured by the mythical higher salaries. Most of the nurses that I spoke to had moved to more junior positions, voluntarily taking pay cuts because in the private sector they were able to nurse.  They were able to do what they trained for, to spend time caring for their patients.

So I call on Dr Carter to stop tinkering around the edges.  Asking politicians to tell people how nice it is to be a nurse when most of the public know that NHS nursing is a nightmare, will do no good at all.  Work with nurses who want real reform.  Call on government to set hospitals free from NHS ownership and let the market promote nursing to the next generation!

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