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We have a letter from a reader this week that ends by saying 'most nurses have stopped listening to politicians. I know I have.' Now this set me thinking. As we reach the end of the party conference season, what have the politicians had to say for themselves and has it been worth listening to? Have they managed to engage people and communicate their vision, or have they just been making annoying white noise in the background as we have got on with our lives?
Wherever you stand on the political spectrum - and even if you have stepped off it altogether - it is hard to escape the fact that a clear divide has opened up between the coalition government and Labour over how to run the health service. It could well turn out to be the defining issue of the next general election.
Up until now a minority of nurses have worked for the private sector. Under the NHS reforms this is changing and increasing numbers will find themselves on the payroll of private sector employers contracted to work for the health service.
Does this matter to you? Are you relaxed about the idea of the NHS as a sort of brand or franchise, or does the concept of a national health service providing care free at the point of delivery mean more than that?
You often hear people say 'keep politics out of the NHS' but it was politicians who set it up and from the word go they have been either tinkering (they would say fine-tuning) with the system or sometimes, as is happening now, radically restructuring it.
Nurses do not like reorganisations, as another of our letter writers points out. It makes a hard job even more difficult when someone takes the deck of cards and throws it up in the air. But when the NHS reforms finally settle down, health staff will have a chance to survey the landscape and decide if they like what they see.
Then, probably in 2015, it will be general election time and politicians will be bending our ears again. Unless we engage in the process and challenge them when we disagree, they will do things we may not like. The reality is that although we might not want to listen to politicians, for the sake of the NHS and its patients, sometimes it is essential that we do.
Editorial | 10th October 2012 | Volume 27 No 6
Nursing Standard is published every Wednesday by RCN Publishing Company Ltd, the publishing company of the Royal College of Nursing.
It seeks to promote professional excellence, and encourage creativity and innovation in nursing, midwifery and health visiting practice. Nursing Standard also aims to enhance nurses' and healthcare assistants' career development and to help them achieve and maintain a healthy and rewarding working environment. Nursing Standard is editorially independent and the opinions expressed are not those of the RCN or of the contributor's employing organisation unless specifically stated.