NURSING - the normalisation of cruelty?

One of the few taboos left in our modern society is one that makes it difficult to criticise other people's expressions of grief. Because of that it is difficult to criticise Ann Clwyd Roberts' recent attack on the nursing profession, made in the context of the death of her husband.

Of course I sympathise with Ann in her loss, I met her late husband Owen on a few occasions and I would be horrified to think that his last days were blighted by lack of care in Wales' flagship hospital, but I'm sorry Ann, I doubt that it is true.

Because professional health care workers expect to be at the butt end of anger as an expression of grief, being insouciant about such attacks is an element of being a caring health care worker.

When my eldest son was a little boy, about 4 years old, he was rushed into hospital with a very severe ear infection. A doctor told me that if the infection spread to his brain that he would die and that the severity of his condition suggested that that was the most likely outcome, his chances of survival were very low indeed!

I hated that doctor with a level of hatred that you cannot imagine – I wanted to do worse than "shoot the messenger".

I see him occasionally in the aisles of the local Tesco store and every time I see him I feel my stomach churning 12 years after the event! Did he break the news gently and with compassion or was he brusk and clinical? I don't know. All I can remember of the event is the horror of some ****** telling me that my lovely little baby was likely to die. Thankfully my son survived, but I still hate that doctor despite the fact that he saved my son's life.

When our loved ones are in hospital it is difficult to be rational, they are the most important people in the world to us we are very emotionally involved with their care, anybody who shows less emotion in such a crisis can appear "callous". But the nurse on that ward may have thirty other patients to deal with s/he has other relatives and friends who are as demanding of her / his attention for their loved ones as I am for mine. S/he can only give one thirtieth of the time that I feel my nearest and dearest deserves, because s/he has to care for the other 29 patients too.

Having a child, a parent, a spouse a grandparent in hospital coming to the end of their lives is probably one of the most traumatic experiences any of us can have. Dealing with the expression of that trauma is an everyday occurrence for health care professionals; If they become emotionally involved they will burn out! A caring professional must be able to share professional empathy with all patients and clients but they cannot give personal sympathy (which is what most of us want from them) and carry on working.

Indeed professional standards and even basic empathy can often conflict. Refuse to tell an 82 year old granny how her granddaughter and prospective great-grandchild are doing and you will be accused of being a callous "jobs worth"; give that information, unintentionally, to hacks and you have breached patient confidentiality and are the butt of a radio hoax and at the arse end of a Professional Conduct Enquiry!

What annoys me most about Ann's intervention on this issue is that she, as a Labour MP, has allowed Jeremy Cunt to respond to her grief by claiming that nursing has descended into the normalisation of cruelty! A means of blaming nurses, rather than government, for failings in the NHS

Ann - Is that sick lie about dedicated public servants what you want Owen to be remembered for?


  1. It's back to the bad old days of institutionalism. I am assuming the next wheeze is to emulate the Victorians and offer day trips to sightseers to laugh at the afflicted. Irony on Irony, the BBC says Briton is now more accepting and caring for their disabled. God forbid they couldn't care less !

  2. Well,MM, you only have to look at the Jeremy Kyle show to see something as tasteless as going to Bedlam to giggle at the inmates.In some ways, we have made strides in how the disabled are perceived, but there does seem to be a backlash now.

    I'm not qualified to say if Alwyn is right in thinking Ann is mistaken about the culture of cruelty in British hospitals. But I think it might have been a better idea not to have commented on it. If she is right, it's better not to say anything to increase her distress. There might not be a monolithic culture in hospitals anyway.

    Perhaps hard working but fallilbe hospital staff need a champion. But if you're not personally involved in a particular case, it's diffcult to make a judgment.I know Alwyn has relevant experience, but perhaps hospitals have gone to the dogs since his day?