Letter: Public sector jobs

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The Independent Culture
Sir: David Aaronovitch ("What's the point of spending a fortune on nurses and teachers?", 28 January) confuses several issues, lumping all public sector workers together is ridiculous because they are very different. He praises nurses in intensive care and then goes on to say that he was shocked by the demeanour and attitude of ancillary workers.

The whole issue of pay is about ensuring a decent salary for professional nurses who are properly trained and qualified. By all means ancillary workers, or for that matter teachers or other public sector employees, are important - but that is not the issue. You cannot simply lump them together.

The reason for paying a liveable wage to qualified nurses, many of whom are qualified to at least Dip HE level, if not to Honours or Masters degree level, is to either stop them leaving or to bring them back into the NHS. The deceptive ploy by the government of paying a nurse of the lowest grade 11% will make little difference, because those nurses don't have the expertise required to make a difference to health care.

The NHS cannot function without enough experienced nurses, yet to imagine that nurses will stay in the NHS when they are paid insufficiently is to live in cloud cuckoo land. The basic assumption that nurses are only worth being paid a decent wage if they work in high visibility areas such as intensive care or casualty is damaging to everyone, nurses and patients alike. What about the average nurse who works hard on a medical-surgical ward, on in outpatients? Their work is vital to patients, and they deserve as much of a pay rise as a newly qualified or a so-called "super" nurse.

Talk of local authorities being dominated by the Socialist Working Party is irrelevant and distracts from issued about nurses, their pay and the public perception of their work. If indeed middle-ranking nurses were paid a living salary, I would personally be able to go back to the NHS full-time. As it is, I was obliged to leave NHS employment last year despite being well-qualified, motivated, idealistic, hard-working and caring. I worked in a major London teaching hospital, which I found rewarding, but because I have to meet my rent and other bills I moved to the private sector, where the pay is marginally better.

I very much resent having been forced to leave for financial reason, but I am even more angry at the current rhetoric surrounding these issued. Having spoken to many other nurses at my level of experience, I know that my feelings are widely shared.

The government and the general public will eventually have to realise that you reap what you sow, and that you get what you pay for. Ultimately it is their choice.

SARA HEDDY

London SE17

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