Editor's Viewpoint: We must listen to those on frontline
Published 09/10/2012 | 08:00
It is no great surprise to hear nurses complain of staff shortages both on the wards and in the community.
Invariably, in times of retrenchment in the health service, nurses, as the largest group of medical professionals, suffer the greatest reduction in numbers. Yet, for most patients, these are the very visible face of the NHS, the people who tend their ills for the longest period whether they are in hospital or recovering at home. No one can deny that the work of nurses is invaluable.
So it is depressing to hear them complain of overwork and being denied essential training. Nurses now are more qualified than ever they were and take on more responsibilities in patient care.
It is therefore imperative that they are able to keep up to speed with modern practices so that the patient experience can be enhanced. It is shocking to hear that an increasing amount of nursing care is being delivered by less-qualified staff. That smacks of simple financial expediency at the expense of best practice.
It has long been the mantra of politicians and health managers that there is fat which needs to be trimmed from the NHS to make it leaner and more efficient. That is giving accountancy primacy over medicine. It cannot be in the best interests of anyone that nurses - as they complained in a survey conducted by trade union Unison across Northern Ireland's five health trusts this summer - feel more pressured and under increasing strain due to a rising workload.
Nurses are in the frontline of providing care and if they are beset with low morale that will inevitably reflect on how patients are treated in the longer-term. Health Minister Edwin Poots says the survey results will be taken into consideration.
It is accepted that he faces a difficult task at a time of austerity, but surely his aim must be to do what is best for those who are ill. And providing an adequately sized, well-trained and motivated nursing staff must be one of his priorities.