Two stories in the media yesterday gave pause for thought about prevailing attitudes to health care workers.
The first was the clearing of Pauline Cafferkey from any wrong-doing by the Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting. The complaint against her was brought by Public Health England despite the fact that the evidence as reported in the press would suggest their own management was to blame, at least in part, for the chaotic screening process Pauline Cafferkey was put through at Heathrow Airport in 2014. The second was a report about a group of seventeen live-in care workers who are alleging they were paid 3.27 an hour by their employer at a time when the minimum wage was 6.70. As reported, the complaint seems to be about the fact that, while they are required to be present and undertake tasks over a 24 hour period, they are paid only for 10 hours.
So, we have two bodies whose role it is to uphold standards in public health very publicly discrediting a nurse who, by most people's standards, should receive an award for bravery. They have done this despite the fact it appears that one of the bodies may, themselves, have been part of the cause of the problem. Then we have a case which highlights the appalling payment level of some care workers and an argument that seeks to justify it by refusing to acknowledge that live-in carers have 24 hour responsibility for their clients unless they are relieved by colleagues.
The thing that struck me about these two cases is that they both show bodies who have responsibility for the conditions, training, welfare and standards of health care workers in fact letting down the very workers they should be supporting. This is a worrying situation. We need and should applaud the dedication of people like Pauline Cafferkey and workers who care enough to continue to support their clients in conditions that most people would find unacceptable. They do this simply because, well, they do care and they choose to put their clients and patients before their own needs. Nursing can be a risky business which can occasionally involve the nurse in the danger of contracting disease. Social care is unavoidably frought with the responsibilities of 24 hour provision. There is no such thing as being present to people without 'doing anything'. If the bodies that employ, manage and regulate health and social care professionals do not affirm dedication and hold out against poor or unrealistic practice, then what sort of a health service can we hope for? We need more Pauline Cafferkeys and experienced care-workers in positions to influence policy and set priorities.
(As a post script, does anyone else wonder why the airport screening appears to have held an individual responsible for recording their own temperature? Isn't the principle of most medical examination that the officer undertaking the examination is responsible?)