Night shifts not good for health?
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.