Many of you will already know me as I’ve worked for the RCN South West region for quite a few years, firstly as a senior officer and more recently as the operational manager.
I started my nursing career working as an HCA in a small independent sector nursing home in Norfolk. Initially this job was intended to be a ‘stop-gap’ but I enjoyed it so much that I decided to train as a nurse. I still remember, with great fondness, many of the patients of that nursing home. It was hard work, and as well as patient care I was expected to wash and dry kylie sheets, do some ironing and prepare breakfasts. But I enjoyed just about every moment of my time there. I went on to do my training at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, at the world famous Nightingale School of Nursing. Again, many very happy memories and friends made for life. I recently went back to St Thomas’ after a gap of over 25 years and found myself very emotional as I remembered patients and colleagues who had helped me to realise my potential as a nurse. The hospital has changed in many ways but somehow, it still felt like I belonged. After qualifying I specialised in chest medicine, working in London and East Anglia and this is when my passion for workers’ rights led me to become a steward for the RCN.
I joined the RCN as a member of staff in back in 1995. During this time I have held a number of roles and also undertaken a secondment to the NHS as a director for 15 months overseeing the implementation of the new national terms and conditions for service (Agenda for Change) as well as being director for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and holding a trust wide nursing brief. As if I wasn’t already busy enough I found time to study and successfully complete a Master’s degree in Law and Employment Relations, as well as a Diploma in Health Service Management while working full time. I am passionate about nursing, health and social care, and will continue to manage and develop RCN services in a way that will support members in years to come, as well as the here and now.
In my new role I am delighted to be able to work with RCN members at a time when nursing needs a strong voice. The challenges facing nurses and nursing are immense. Nursing is a wonderful and rewarding career but currently it is undervalued by our government. The most pressing issue remains the shortage of nurses, with every trust in the region struggling to fill posts. This shortage is currently being managed by the goodwill of nurses on the frontline who work additional shifts, and excess unpaid hours to cover the gaps: but the NHS cannot continue to function on goodwill alone. The removal of the NHS bursary, Brexit, the Government-enforced cap on nursing pay, reductions to pensions and poor working conditions are resulting in more people leaving the profession than joining it and this trend must be reversed before it has a devastating impact on patient care.
Alongside this crisis in nursing numbers we are seeing the biggest change to health systems under the STPs. I recognize the value of redesigning care pathways to ensure that they are fit for purpose and future-proofed, but I am very concerned that STPs are primarily finance driven. System change comes at a cost and must be properly funded to ensure appropriate services are available to communities.
I will write in more detail about these and other issues in future blogs, and how they affect not just the NHS but also our independent sector providers.