Starting out: the lessons that should have been learned

Four years ago, the government published the Francis report, but as winter looms the lessons that should have been learned are falling short writes Emma Cowen.

Winter is coming. Words to make any Game of Thrones fan smile, and any healthcare professional shudder.

The pressure nurses are set to feel this winter could be a squeeze too far. Picture: Getty Images

Everyone who works in healthcare knows what winter will bring to hospitals up and down the country. There will be more patients than beds. There will be more staff shortages, more seriously ill patients, more headlines about the failings of the NHS.

All through the quieter summer months, instead of appreciating them we spend our time saying to each other ‘it won’t be like this for long, just you wait for winter’.


I struggle to see how as a profession we can possibly increase our workload. Already nurses are stretched too thinly, and it is incredible that patient safety has not been compromised.

The fact that nurses are still providing such excellent care in today’s climate is in no way an indication that the government’s austerity measures and budget cuts work. Instead it is a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone who works in the NHS.

However, we can only push ourselves so far before the cracks start to appear. When budget cuts are prioritised over patient care we find ourselves in dangerous territory, as anyone who has read the Francis report knows. Published four years ago, it would seem the government has not learned from the mistakes outlined in the report, or heeded the recommendations.

Or maybe it has, and knows full well the ramifications of what this winter could bring. Starting with the NHS already on its knees seems like a good way to finally bring about the end of the NHS. Wards already short of nurses, emergency departments already putting patients on trollies in corridors, waiting lists already behind schedules.

All before hospitals are even 'busy', all before winter has even begun. I believe the government would like this to be the last winter of the NHS. For our patients, for ourselves, we need to prove them wrong.

About the author

Emma Cowen is a staff nurse in the children’s emergency department at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Brighton

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