Nursing Times Award Winner

Is it possible to push water uphill?

The last few weeks have been quite extraordinary. Jill has written some wonderfully inspiring and heartfelt blog posts, and I've kept quiet (quite unlike me!) whilst I worked out exactly how I feel about it all.

A couple of weeks ago a wellknown newspaper unexpectedly ran a story about what happened to my mother (I had been interviewed for the feature over two years before), and since then I have been in a very reflective mood. I've been trying to work out what exactly HAS changed in the NHS since my lovely Mum died so suddenly three years ago, in January 2010.

The Francis Report has highlighted lots of ghastly things that went on at Mid Staffs. I'm very sad to say that none of that information was a surprise to either Jill or me. We have witnessed the horror of what can happen one too many times. Elderly people are so vulnerable - especially so when they are admitted, more often than not, as an emergency, to an NHS ward.

There have been many news stories about awful things happening in hospitals across the UK. They all have the same underlying message - the nurses are letting their patients down. They don't care.

Three years ago, I would have wholeheartedly agreed with that. I was furious that my mother had been on the receiving end of the awful care that I had read about previously in the papers. Those sorts of things happen to other people. They don't happen to my family.

I now think differently. I am still very angry about what happened. I miss my mother every day - and feel sure that had she not been admitted to hospital she would still be alive today. However, I have much more understanding as to HOW these things happen. If it was as straightforward as the media would have us believe - that the Nursing staff actually don't care at all - it would be a much easier problem to sort out.

I have worked with Jill at Kissing it Better for just over a year. In that time I have met many wonderfully compassionate people, many of whom are nurses, who take huge pride in their work, and who are incredibly frustrated by "the system". I truly believe that no-one goes in to nursing with the aim of giving less than 100% compassionate care. Why would anyone train to be a nurse if they didn't feel a calling to look after people? Its not exactly the most glamorous job. However the system that they work with drives them to become disengaged from their instincts. They go into the job feeling positive, feeling like they CAN make a difference to people, and that they will be the best nurse there has ever been. Slowly but surely this positivity is driven out of them by guidelines and redtape, Health and Safety initiatives, workload, and very importantly by the lack of common sense being deployed.

Of course in any huge organisation there are some bad apples. With the right leadership and management surely its possible to turn the majority of these people around - to show them the right way. Continually telling them how useless they are will not make them better. It will drive the good out, and harbour the bad. Constantly smacking a naughty child (not something Kissing it Better would advocate) will not turn that child into a well behaved one.

With Jill and the rest of the Kissing it Better team, I've been working hard to try and make a difference to patients in hospital wards across the country. We have come up against all sorts of hurdles, many of which are not insurmountable, even if they feel like they are at first. We work with wonderful members of staff who do their very best to help us get our projects up and running. There are lots of brick walls to contend with, lots of red tape, needing a great deal of energy and diplomacy to sort out so we can keep moving forward. Sometimes we need skin as thick as an ox so as not to down tools and flounce off. Good ideas are often thrown out, tripped up, and dumped at the last minute. At times we are given the impression that others feel they are "busier" than us, or that our work is not ''top of the pile". But we will not be knocked off course - unintentionally or otherwise.

I keep the image of my Mum in her hospital bed in my head whilst I'm working on the negative stuff - it focuses my mind. I need to remember why I'm doing this job.

Kissing it Better does make a difference to lots of people - and not only patients. The volunteers that so generously give their time and talents to come on to wards gain enormously from their experiences. It is COMMON SENSE for them to come. Everyone gains from their visits.

I was lying in bed last night thinking about what a gargantuan task setting up Kissing it Better projects is. For some reason I remembered watching a tv programme about a series of locks that raises the water level in the Worcester and Birmingham Canal some 220 feet.

If they can push water uphill - so can we!

Liz Pryor

Liz Pryor

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