Comment & Opinion

Brian Booth, RGN,

Silencing the independent voice of nursing (midwifery and AHPs)

I never thought I’d find myself defending the Department of Health’s nursing unit, having worked in there many moons ago; but as I signed the Official Secrets Act (don’t laugh, it’s true), I have to be a bit circumspect. It didn’t and doesn’t make me important to have scrawled across a document.).

It wasn’t exactly the very top level; my job was more about making sure that the loft ladder was safe.

As I knew it, there were many flaws, and the grinding slowness of it all made me, as a nurse, want to thcream and thrceam until I was thick. (I bet quite a few readers won’t know who Violet Elizabeth Bott was, being too [ptchah] young.)

Despite its many flaws, this ever shrinking body then harboured a few subversives who pulled off the trick of toeing the DH line whilst supporting nurses and midwives whilst no-one was looking.

It was during my time there that I came up with the concept of ‘guerrilla nursing’, but to discuss that will need a few more years to pass – after my retirement, probably.

As I once said to some decent and honourable fellow nursing officers, in my early days there: ‘I get it. You’re too high up and politically involved to support nurses openly, but you’ll go the wall to support nursing. Please explain the difference’.

And that is why I back Deborah’s petition. There will be no options otherwise.

When a very senior member of an unnamed nursing union, challenged at Congress (whoops – please delete) – was challenged in a hotel bar by a delegate about their failure to take on ‘the Establishment’, to be met with the response ‘but we ARE the establishment’, then something was obviously wrong.

But Deborah is right. We don’t have to like our kids, but we still love them. So it goes with nursing. Real nurses would rather live on their feet than die on their knees. No matter that our defences may have the breaking strain of a warm Kit-Kat, and that DH nurses might be a weak link.

Yet they exist, and I have to ask you to take me on trust that at least some of them are probably good guys. If this change happens, the only external advisers will be what we called ‘reliable’ – that is, able to ignore the truth in the hope of a gong. (How that authority-disrespecting and challenging PCNR editor got one makes me think there must have been a mix-up with the envelopes.)

If they are asked to become mouthpieces, it will be the best who leave, with a rump remainder of self-seekers, promised jobs elsewhere that will protect a pension which makes most other schemes seem Scrooge-like.

Please sign the petition, even though it may stick in your craw – as in mine - that you would be asking for the least worst option.