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  • Writer's pictureDJ

A Hundred Lives

“Save one life, you’re a hero. Save a hundred lives, you’re a nurse.”


For many of us, that anonymous quote sums up the contribution nurses make to our society. It’s no secret that these exceptional professionals are paid less than they deserve. It’s difficult to put a price on the compassion and commitment that saw so many nurses risk their own health during the COVID-19 pandemic, let alone the skill that saved and enriched so many lives. But if we are going to put a price on it, let’s set the bar high.


Wales’s new First Minister, Vaughan Gething, was Minister for Health and Social Services from 2016 to 2021 so he should be aware of the value of nurses, and the conditions they work in. 2023 figures indicate that there are almost 3,000 vacancies for registered nurses in Wales. The shortfall is largely being made up by the existing workforce. Every week, NHS Wales nurses work approximately 70,000 hours over and above their normal schedule. In other words, Welsh nurses are being asked to do one of the most challenging jobs in the world, and additionally shoulder a burden equal to the full-time contribution of another 2,000 people. No one seriously believes that’s sustainable. So what are we going to do about it?


The Royal College of Nursing has prioritised three action points.

·      The Welsh government made a pay offer to nurses for 2023-24 that was accepted. Now nurses would like the deal to be honoured.

·      The NHS plans to bolster its workforce with an influx of registered nursing associates. These roles were conceived as a bridge between care workers and registered nurses, and the Royal College is eager for them to be introduced in a way that adds value for patients and gives nurses a more manageable workload.

·      With so many people depending on the skill and professionalism of nurses, the RCN is seeking a commitment to training and development.


From where we’re standing, these seem like reasonable requests.

Allowing experienced professionals to grow discontented through overwork, low pay and sheer frustration, leave the NHS and be replaced by untrained, unqualified people is a dangerous way to manage a healthcare workforce. When our nurses and the people who speak for them say they don’t want it to happen, they’re acting in our interests as much as their own. We can’t expect our nurses to keep giving everything without offering them something in return. We can’t expect them to keep running on empty. When someone saves a hundred lives, they’re entitled to a say in how they manage their own.


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