'Nurse of the Year' quits, blaming huge increase in NHS bureaucracy

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A star NHS employee is quitting her hospital just eight months after being made Nurse of the Year, because of the strain that constant health reform is placing on frontline staff.

Justine Whitaker called on Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, to stop paying lip service to nurses and "hear what we are saying".

Ms Whitaker, 37, is leaving her job as a specialist clinical nurse in the treatment of lymphoedema – swelling of the lymph glands – at East Lancashire Primary Care Trust at the end of November. She will become a senior lecturer in the treatment of the disease at the University of Central Lancashire. Although she was excited by her new post, she said she was sorry to be leaving frontline health care.

"We have a government saying it has talked to thousands of nurses and doctors – but it is not hearing what we are saying," she said. "I am in favour of change. It is not that I cannot cope or do not understand but the impact of these reforms is grossly misunderstood by the Government."

She said nurses were being told they needed to make savings by using fewer needles and bandages but, at the same time, money was being wasted on meetings of highly paid practitioners and managers where decisions were never made. She said: "I leave behind a group of very unhappy nurses who have been put through the mill with constant reform."

Ms Whitaker said the nurses' problems included bureaucracy and form-filling; new deadlines to implement government targets; and uncertainty over the merger of two local general hospitals that had raised fears of redundancy.

Her disclosure in the Nursing Standard came as an embarrassment to the Health Secretary and was seized on by the Tories. However, Ms Whitaker, said she did not wish to be exploited by political parties.

* The neonatal intensive care unit at the Royal Blackburn Hospital has been shut after five babies tested positive for a strain of the MRSA bug. The unit has been closed to admissions since mid-September but news of the outbreak has only now been revealed. None of the babies is said to be seriously ill and they are being treated in a separate area within the unit.