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Nurses need to care for themselves

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Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health

Goodbye 2015 and welcome to 2016. It has been an eventful year in the NHS packed with fresh challenges for its staff. But as the primary care nurses who spoke to us for our 2015 review on page 12 reveal, there were plenty of opportunities for the profession too. It seems a long time ago, but 2015 was also an election year. Shorn of their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, the Tories are setting out their own discrete vision of the NHS. You can hear it directly from the horse’s mouth, the Secretary of State for Health, aka Westminster’s other Jeremy, on pg8. Fresh from his tussles with the junior doctors, he tells us that nurses are at the heart of his vision for the seven-day NHS, and his pet cause of patient safety.

And it’s here perhaps that one has to sound a sceptical note. The health service is short of nurses, but the government is set to end the system of bursaries that made it possible for many to enter the profession; the government talks about safe staffing levels, but have capped the amount that can be spent on agency staff to plug the gaps. Doctors’ pay hits the headlines, but nurses struggle with 1% pay rises well below the real cost of living. Faced with these brickbats, is it possible that you’re being too nice? Maybe it’s time nurses got a bit angrier – or at least a little noisier about their contribution to the NHS. On 11 January, Parliament will debate the end of bursaries. Maybe this time they should hear the angels roar.

Mike Shallcross, acting editor, Independent Nurse

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