Much of the media this morning is full of the financial problems the NHS is having and the government has the agencies that supply nurses clearly in it’s sights. But who is really to blame?
We do not have to look to far to find stories of discontented nurses taking strike action because of pay and conditions, and the governments refusal to pay nurses the rise in pay that was recommended has turned out to be almost literally ‘penny wise, pound foolish’. Along with the reduction in the value of their salaries along with all public sector staff nurses have had a massive cut in their pension – add this together and you get an erosion of the benefits of working within the NHS on a contract and working for an agency becomes more attractive.
It is clear from nurse comments working for an agency is not seen as their ideal career, [ http://www.lbc.co.uk/nurses-strike-is-nhs-action-justified-98585] but it is the treatment within the NHS that is forcing nurses out.
It makes one wonder if the ministers that make these decisions have any basic economic understanding at all. In the UK demand for health care is increasing and is set to do so for the foreseeable future. This in turn increases the demand for qualified nurses which is a finite resource so far from cutting the benefits offered the NHS should be improving pay and conditions a far cheaper option than fire fighting and having to use agency staff, if the NHS could recruit and retain nurses the agencies would not exist.
But just a minute all public sector staff are in the same position aren’t they? Teachers, policemen, firefighters have all had their terms and conditions cut under austerity, why are we not seeing the same problems here? I would suggest that unlike doctors and nurses all of these areas can absorb staff shortages – but that does not mean that if cuts continue these areas too will not reach a crisis point.