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Night shifts not good for health?

Martin Rosenbaum | 14:40 UK time, Wednesday, 2 May 2007

It's a year since the Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt told a rowdy and dissatisfied audience at the Royal College of Nursing conference that she would work a night shift with a nurse who heckled her, and that it wouldn't be the first one.

When a neonatal nurse from South Tyneside challenged Hewitt about the level of staffing on night shifts, offering 'If you would like to come and work a night shift, Patricia, please contact me afterwards', the Health Secretary promptly replied 'Of course I'll do that, and it won't be the first one either.'

It then transpired that any 'night shift' she had worked so far lasted a maximum of 90 minutes. So has she worked any night shifts since then? The Department of Health has now told the BBC in reply to an FOI request that 'the Secretary of State has not worked any night shifts since the Royal College of Nursing Conference last year'.

The DoH did add 'However, Ms Hewitt has continued to visit staff working night shifts as part of her continuing visits programme', although it did not give any further details.

Is this a trivial detail or a point of significance? Perhaps that depends on whether you think ministerial visits to the front-line are pointless PR stunts done only because they are expected or valuable learning experiences which assist government decision-making.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 11:02 PM on 02 May 2007,
  • Dr John Wood wrote:

What did you expect? A cabinet minister keeping a promise? A NuLabour MP keeping a promise you must be kidding!

How on earth can Mrs Hewitt be expected to be taken seriously if she makes promises like this and fails to keep her word that is to work a night shift not part of it ALL OF IT.
As Gerry Robinson pointed out one of the problems with the NHS is the failure of senior managers to meet staff at the "coalface" And as SoS for health Mrs Hewitt is THE manager of the NHS. When she has completed a full nightshift with a member of nursing staff perhaps she should spend a WHOLE day with a busy inner city GP and then a hospital consultant. Then and only then can she how well Choose & Book NPfIT/PACS etc etc work in practice.
But like another Labour term in government it wont happen!

  • 2.
  • At 05:03 PM on 04 May 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

What is stopping the Government actually doing something for the NHS rather than saying they are doing something for the NHS which baffles NHS's employees? Oh yes. Money.

But how long can you spin straw statements into Rumplestiltkin's type gold Tony - soon to be Gordon?

Why not just do something? Unlike Night Shifts - it may be good for you and Great Britain.

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