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Jane Bates: Flexible working just a dream until NHS is adequately staffed 

While the concept of flexible, family-friendly working is very welcome, it is just a pipe dream until the significant shortage of NHS nurses is addressed, says Jane Bates.

While the concept of flexible, family-friendly working is very welcome, it is just a pipe dream until the significant shortage of NHS nurses is addressed, says Jane Bates


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Are you flexible like me? When I’m lying on the sofa watching Strictly Come Dancing, it’s astonishing how far I can stretch my right arm to reach for my glass of wine.

Professional flexibility, however, working entirely to the NHS agenda and not our own, is another kettle of fish, one that has forever been a prerequisite of being a nurse. Dance to their tune, say yes when we really want to say no, a one-way street. Flexible.

But with falling nurse numbers and the struggle to retain staff, there is now talk of a new kind of flexibility. NHS Employers are encouraging the type of flexible working that will induce us to stay – family-friendly hours, bespoke retirement plans, and a focus on work-life balance.

Conscience

In all the years I’ve been nursing, and in all the organisations I’ve worked for, I don’t remember any consideration being given to our working conditions. Nurses were deemed two-a-penny, and therefore expendable. You don’t like it here? There’s the door.

So thanks, NHS Employers, for this breath of fresh air, but I’m afraid it just won’t work. The current personnel shortages mean that if there is an emergency, or staff sickness to cover, we will inevitably end up staying beyond our allotted hours.

It would be beyond the flexibility of our consciences to walk away from patients or colleagues. We know, more than anyone, that nothing will change until the NHS is adequately staffed. 


Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire 

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