#BursaryOrBust & the #JuniorDoctorsStrike – Our #NHS staff under threat

I have been watching the various arguments upon social media in regards to the #BursaryOrBust proposals & the #JuniorDoctorsStrike. I cannot help feeling that our NHS staff (and students) must be feeling somewhat under threat. Our NHS staff need a nurturing environment in which to thrive. Rex Haigh has described the quintessence of a therapeutic environment as being one in which community members feel safe and have a sense of belonging. NHS staff must feel valued and nurtured in order to give the best of themselves and reach higher levels of personal achievement. We all want the very best for our NHS staff so that they in turn can offer the NHS the best of themselves…don’t we?

Here is a brief run down outlining the current predicaments for Nurses, midwives and junior doctors.

As the nation’s junior doctors go on strike, they talk about why they do their job, the challenges they face and why the proposed new contract will be detrimental to patient care in this video below….

The business case for a reduction in working overtime is clear. It can result in a cycle of exhaustion and actually limit productivity.

The proposed new contract would extend #juniordoctors normal hours, known as plain time, to 10pm on weekdays and include Saturdays until 7pm. There will be an 11% pay rise to compensate for the loss of overtime, but the BMA insists juniors would still be up to 30% worse off.

At the same time, student nurses, midwives and other health professionals have been marching outside Whitehall and Downing Street in protest against the government’s plan to scrap bursaries for nursing and midwifery students from 2017. This plan will see the bursary replaced by loans to cover tuition fees and maintenance costs. The argument is that this will allow the cap on student numbers of be lifted, creating up to 10,000 extra training places.

The key campaigners are @KCLNMS (the King’s College London society for student nurses and midwives) – They are certainly leading a strong movement. I salute you!

The petition against the reforms has attracted more than 150,000 signatures.

However, MP’s have said that bursary removal risks NHS recruitment ‘disaster’.

So, what I draw from both of these situations is a sense that our staff are feeling/being undervalued. Whether this is true or not, the sentiment shines through. ‘We are making cuts to YOUR profession’ whatever they might be….YOUR profession is one we can make cuts to.

Does this send a message that we think we can stretch NHS workforce to extremes?… Value other professions more? …Test the resilience of this workforce as apposed to others?

A good leader will lead by example ‘Let me show you how we do things here’… Everything we do sends a message, and here, I fear that the message of ‘undervalue’ may become ingrained in generations of our NHS workforce. Striking is rare. The feelings are real.

Leaders must continuously create new opportunities for their valued and most outstanding employees – or their workforce may fail to thrive.

We know that some staff are more stressed by being undervalued than by workload So how might NHS staff be feeling right now? Worthless? cast aside? not worthy of reasonable working hours? or the right pay? dogs bodies? a Cinderella service? Whatever they may be feeling, I do not believe they will be feeling particularly engaged, productive or valued right now.

We currently have a recruitment and retention challenge on our hands, and one of my initial thoughts was that if new students are going to have to pay for their training, this may discourage those applicants who apply for a nursing/midwifery career as a secondary option without the burden of a student loan. I remember myself how high the student drop out rate was as a midwifery student by both young and mature applicants (16 started, 4 of us qualified)! If students have to pay and training placements increase, we may gain more control over plucking the best candidates for the job.

However, what if the best candidates can’t afford to pay/get a loan? I guess there isn’t enough money in the world to fix every problem. However, one thing is clear, whoever we recruit, employ, work with or manage, we have to value them in order to maximise their potential within the health services. When work is held in high value by the employees, turnover is not a big issue. Recognition, praise, and special incentives are tools that can raise the value of work to employees. If employees feel better about their jobs, they are less likely to leave. Even more importantly: they will try to be better at what they do.
By raising motivation levels, worker turnover can be reduced up to 53%(Steven et al. 2005). This is something we all want to achieve.

My concern is that the scars these changes are making in undervaluing of our NHS workforce will remain and run deep for a long time. They will be remembered in generations to come, and will take work to heal. As leaders demonstrate ‘How we do things here’ they are also demonstrating how we treat our NHS Staff. Lets hope they get it right in the end.

(Steven J. Condly, Ph.D. and Robin DiPietro, Ph.D. “Motivation in the Hospitality Industry” 2005)



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