Until I was 9 years old there was no NHS. If people were sick they had to pay or rely on old wives remedies or charity.

We were fortunate because we belonged to a “friendly society” and paid a small sum each week which covered us for GP visits and convalescent homes. It may also have paid partly for dentists and opticians, but I am not sure about that. The GP I worked with in the 60s and 70s had been in practice for nearly 40 years and some of the patients remembered him in his younger days before the war when he was known as the “Shilling Doctor” because he charged one shilling per consultation (this included a bottle of medicine)

After the NHS came in (which at the beginning included  free dentures and free spectacles) you suddenly saw toothless people sporting wide letterbox style grins with their new free teeth and even quite young people had protruding or discoloured teeth replaced with dazzling white ones.

Free hospital treatment (before, you had to pay what the almoner calculated you could afford) meant that they were no longer regarded as the place of last resort for the poor and only one step up from the workhouse, but as somewhere you would be given the best care available at that time.

When I entered the nursing profession (1958) it was considered an honourable profession which worked with the medical profession and the physios and radiographers etc. not under them and not over them.  Contrary to Nurse Anne’s opinion we were from good educational backgrounds and chose nursing because we wanted to nurse, not because we were too dim to go to university! Many of my set had the educational requirements to pursue a degree based occupation but we chose not to. If I had wanted to I was given every opportunity to study medicine, but I did not take them and have never regretted the decision, though with this degree obsessed generation and the administrative staff who are more interested in statistics and bits of paper, than the way patients are treated, I doubt if I would make the same decision now. Dr John Crippen  posted a letter from an ex nurse’s husband  on April 4th which explained why an excellent nurse has now taken a non clinical job.

We were given an excellent training both theoretically and practically. We had a book which we took on every ward and at the end of the three months there the sister filled in all the tasks at which we were proficient. By the end of our third year this had to be completely filled otherwise we could not take the final exam as it was sent off with the exam papers and results of the oral and practical exams to GNC for assessment before we were awarded State Registration, only then were we legally entitled to call ourselves Nurse without the Student prefix.

Nurse Anne accuses us of “rose tinted specs” and says there were “needless deaths” in the bad old days. Of course there were deaths then which wouldn’t happen now, but remember that antibiotics, kidney dialysis, steroids and cancer drugs were in their relative infancy and keyhole surgery and transplants hadn’t become everyday surgery so yes maybe there were more deaths from those kind of illnesses,  but,we did not have patients dying from hospital acquired diseases, starvation or neglect! She says nurses were “seen and not heard.”  Tell that to sisters Gadd, Underwood, Jaeger and Tillotson and Matron Pierce amongst others. Everyone listened to them from junior nurses and doctors to senior consultants!

Many of the things she complains about would not not have happened when I was training. A recently qualified SRN would not need mentoring, we had been mentored for three years. In another post she explained why it appears that nurses congregate around the nurses station, she claims that all sorts of staff gather there for recreation breaks etc. They would not have dared to eat their lunch in sister’s office and were easily recognised by the uniforms they wore and would not have been mistaken for nurses anyway.

She cites another occasion when they could not deal with patients and their relatives because she was laying up crash trolleys and the auxilliaries were busy trying to do the beds etc. If they had nurses learning on the ward, the 1st years could be trusted to do basic nursing care, 2nd or 3rd years could lay up the trolleys and assist the houseman with the “crashed” patients  leaving her free to catch up with paperwork, deal with relatives and scheduled drugs.

The system started to go wrong when the structure was removed, the trained nurses were graded and given numbers and moved further away from the patients, sisters no longer seem to run their own wards with responsibility only to Matron and goodness only knows what the multiple matrons do now. They don’t appear to run the hospital or even have day to day contact with patients and staff.  The people giving orders appear to be an army of bureaucrats. According to Dr Crippen the medical side is just the same and the consultants no longer have “firms” of registrars, housemen and students, so, if nurses are taking over more of the jobs they did, where do the junior doctors get their practical training?

I think when Nurse Anne writes about traditionally trained nurses she is unaware of how nursing was in the days when the public gave us respect and were well cared for and we got a great deal more job satisfaction than she seems to get now. The rot had well and truly set in over 20 years before  she came into nursing, when the bureaucrats had been allowed to steal the authority we once had. I don’t suppose she will ever agree with me, how can she if she has only experienced nursing in the modern era, but I  have experienced both, as a patient and as a nurse and I know which one I prefer, and I’ll bet that given the choice the patients would agree. They don’t give a fig whether a nurse has a degree or was state registered, just that they are looked after properly in a clean environment. After all the hospital is supposed to be run for the purpose of treating patients isn’t it? Not to provide work for bureaucrats and medical staff.

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