i Editor's Letter: The state of nursing


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The Independent Online

Today, Christina Patterson begins her compelling series on the state of nursing in the UK.

Christina knows at first hand what conditions are like in our hospitals – she has had six operations in the past eight years.

In her first piece, which begins today, she describes how she was treated by nursing staff. How she was expected to lift a heavy teapot to serve herself a cup of tea after having her lymph nodes removed.

How a nurse explained, after her fourth operation, that she couldn't expect constant checks as the staff were "busy". How a nurse failed to notice she was lying in a pool of blood.

You might think that these are the complaints of a needy, self-centred patient trying to get more than her fair share of attention, were it not for the fact that her experiences mirrored those of dozens of readers, who wrote in to tell their own horrific stories.

Something seems to have happened in the NHS. When I took my mother into casualty at Christmas (she's fine now), it was as if the conventional roles had reversed. Nurses seemed determined not to perform any task that could possibly be described as menial while the doctors ran around chasing medical files, organising drips and even fetching my mother a glass of water from the cooler nearby.

I can understand that in the past few decades, nurses have fought a huge battle to be seen as health professionals, rather than handmaidens. But surely simple human decency would ensure some kind of compassionate response to patients in pain or discomfort? Wouldn't it?

Read Christina's reports in i today, and every day this week, and let us know what you think.

Stefano Hatfield is away