Letter: The value of nurses

Peter Fisher (letter, 29 January) makes a welcome contribution to the debate on the recruitment crisis of the nursing profession. However, he is in danger of perpetuating the myth of nurses as caring but simple creatures in need of little sustenance or rewards other than those intrinsic in helping others.

The question of pay is, in fact, central to the problem. Nurses are a highly trained, disciplined, hard-working, legally accountable and successfully self-regulating profession who routinely save and enhance the lives of their fellow human beings, working the sort of hours and in the kind of environments most other professionals could scarcely imagine, let alone tolerate.

Initial training combines intensive study with demanding clinical placements. Subsequent training is compulsory in order to re-register every three years, yet this is often undertaken without the financial support of employers. General nursing has seen the advent of extra responsibilities passed on from the medical profession and, in my field of mental health nursing, we have taken on board a succession of new legislation and initiatives such as Care in the Community and the Care Programme Approach, for no extra pay.

In this light, it is with some bitterness that we see the Government contemplating the continued systematic impoverishment of nurses by setting the latest pay rise below the rate of inflation. It has always been understood that no one will make their fortune in nursing, but the Government's latest plans give out the clear message that the work we do is simply not valued.

JULES AKERS

Stockport, Cheshire

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