“When it comes to tax, my priority will always be to cut the basic rate of tax, but if cutting the top rate means you can raise more revenue like with what happened last time it was cut, brings extra revenue and that means more nurses, more teachers, more police…”
Sajid Javid, The Andrew Marr Show, June 2nd 2019
We will be hearing a lot from those hoping to get the top spot of Prime Minister I suspect in the coming days which is not a bad thing; I think it is important not just for them to have their canvasing time but actually to be interviewed, held to account and properly probed.
As a nurse, though, I just wish they would show a little more imagination – rather than spouting out meaningless statements about how we will do “X” and lo and behold, we will suddenly fill the c.40,000 nurse vacancies (and that’s in England alone by the way) they would take the opportunity to properly engage with us. I wish they would dig beneath the surface; ask why the Royal College of Nursing has a #SafeStaffingSavesLives campaign, why 305 nurses took their own lives between 2011 and 2017, and why, yet again, we are being publicly attacked for being intelligent. I haven’t heard any of them chip in and back us up on that one yet.
There is, of course, the real concern that the next PM will be someone who brings us that step even closer to a privatised health service. Whatever the private thoughts of the individual candidates, however, the government position appears to be long term investment in the NHS; Jeremy Hunt the then Secretary of State for Health stating on publication of the 10 year NHS plan “I have been working closely with the Prime Minister and Chancellor, and can today announce that the NHS will receive an increase of £20.5 billion a year in real terms by 2023 to 2024, an average of 3.4% per year growth over the next 5 years. The funding will be front-loaded with increases of 3.6% in the first 2 years, which means £4 billion extra next year in real terms, with an additional £1.25 billion cash to cope with specific pension pressures.” Looks OK, but it should be noted that the extra money being used to pay for this is cited as money we won’t be sending to the EU after Brexit and also changes in the tax system. In the event of no-Brexit or the new PM keeping the current tax system it is yet to be seen just how much of this will come the way of the NHS.
Whatever each politician’s personal views on the NHS might be, there are many nurses who don’t work in the NHS and we as a profession should be listened to; we do actually have some pretty good insights into how to move forward. Of course, we’re not going to reject any extra money that they throw our way as a result of cutting the higher rate of tax, but using glib flyaway comments like this don’t really give me much reassurance that this is actually something that is going to happen. A bit like that bus…
We are not completely forgotten in parliament and there are some that are taking up our cause. A recent discussion on “nurse training” (deep breath!) led Richard Drax MP to say that improvements in the working environment would ultimately lead to higher numbers entering the profession and also emphasises the positives of student nurses receiving a bursary whilst they complete their education.
The NHS long term plan has an emphasis on diversity of roles, and in a discussion in the House of Lords in 2018, Lord O’Shaughnessy said of the plan “it is looking at diversifying the working population—for example, through the growth in the number of nursing associate training places.” Whilst this is important, it does not address the need for proper safe registered nurse ratios to be mandated in law; Baroness Emerton at least partly addressed this point (April 2019) stating:
“The cry at the moment is an urgent plea for a safe staffing formula that will satisfy the needs of the whole population. As far as I can see, five years after the law was passed, we are now looking at another two or three years. We are really in a situation in which safe staffing is the top priority.”
So, we shall see. I’m almost tempted to do a conservative leadership candidate nursing bingo; what would we see? “More nurses” has got to be a firm favourite. Maybe “hard work”… “dedication”… “nurse training”…
What would I like to see? Safe Staffing, Nursing concerns, I have listened to nurses, nurse leaders, healthy working environment, enabling nurses to do their jobs, patient safety, minimalizing the negative impacts of Brexit, year of the nurse, image of nurses, sexualisation of nurses and how to combat, nurses with degrees talked about in a positive way… maybe one of them will even get a full house who knows!
What would your choices be?
Interview Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash
Piggy bank photo credit: Fabian Blank on Unsplash
Parliament Photo by Erik Lundqvist on Unsplash