Nurses failed by years of Tory cutbacks

Letter www.theguardian.com

The failure of Nightingale hospitals came as no surprise, though the rapid conversions and equipping remain interesting. Where were thousands of new hospital beds stored, for example? They seemed to have appeared out of nowhere (The empty Nightingale hospitals show the cost of putting buildings before people, 27 January).

I was a senior manager in nursing education in the 1990s, when training moved from what has been dubbed “apprenticeship-style training” to a university-based education. The battle to achieve this had been long and bitter, with the Conservatives being wholly against this transition as student nurses had been such a cheap way of staffing hospitals. The change was agreed, and the then Conservative government cut training numbers overnight by up to a third.

We are still living with the consequences of this. Combined with a reduction of thousands of hospital beds over three decades, the effect on the NHS is plain to see. No time for recovery, no time for reflection and fewer opportunities for ongoing development.

Successive governments, mainly Conservative, have tried and failed to convince the public that the NHS is a drain of the public purse and have quickly learned that any threat to it could cost them the next election. That hasn’t stopped them significantly reducing the service and carrying out a planned programme of asset stripping. With every change in government, the overstretched staff must wonder what is coming next.

Karen Jacob

(Retired nurse/nurse lecturer), Devon