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RCN Scotland comment on the NHS at 70

5 Jul 2018

As the UK celebrates the NHS’ 70th birthday, there is a real and palpable sense that the NHS is fighting for its survival.

Over 70 years the NHS has undoubtedly revolutionised public health and the way in which illness is treated in a quiet display of steely determination.

Its resilience runs counter to the warnings about under-resourcing, endemic demand, immense pressure on staff, long hours, and historic low pay. 

Despite this, as the UK celebrates the NHS’ 70th birthday and celebrities, the public and politicians rally, share stories, and speak out about what the NHS means to them, there is a real and palpable sense that the NHS is fighting for its survival.

Reflecting on the NHS at 70, Theresa Fyffe, Director, RCN Scotland, said:

“As a nurse of 30 years the sense of foreboding which now exists within my profession fills me with sadness, but it is inescapable. Last year, the Royal College of Nursing asked its members about the nursing staffing on their last shift and the impact which this had on care. 

“One nurse said: ‘I started nursing to look after and care for people, but poor staffing levels mean that I struggle to give the best care. Most days I feel low and completely demoralised. I would like to believe things can change but feel this may never happen.’

“This echoes what I hear each week from nurses and health care support workers across Scotland. Whether working in hospitals, community teams, or nursing homes, nursing staff do not have the time to provide the high quality care that they want for patients. It’s a sentiment shared by colleagues across the NHS. In the recent NHS Scotland iMatter survey two-thirds of staff said that there weren’t enough of them to provide safe, effective care.  

“The bottom line is that in 2018 Scotland does not have the nursing staff it needs to care for everyone in a safe and effective way. The Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill before Parliament is an opportunity for change and it must be seized upon. That’s why over the coming months, the Royal College of Nursing will be asking for more for nursing so that patients receive safe, high-quality care.

“The great strength and resilience of the NHS has always come from the people who make it. The staff are absolutely crucial. But so too are the patients whose willingness to be the first has allowed pioneering surgery and the eradication of disease through vaccination; the members of the public who are championing its survival; the media who are giving a platform and a voice; and the politicians who have the unenviable task of finding a solution to the increasingly urgent sustainability question. 

“Like my fellow nurses I want to believe that change can happen, and I believe that by working together positive change will come - the current offer to NHS staff on pay demonstrates this - because, amid the celebrations, NHS 70 has also served a reminder, if one was needed, that the NHS is a joint venture and a joint responsibility.”

Follow @RCNScot to see how you can get involved.