NURSES and midwives are the absolute backbone of our society.

I am currently witnessing the value of their work every day, as my father is seriously ill in hospital, and has been literally kept alive by the nurses at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, despite their being perpetually understaffed. Myself, my father and the rest of our family all stand in solidarity with their decision to strike ("‘Catastrophe’ as nurses vote to strike before Christmas", The Herald, November 10).

Their work is highly demanding, both physically and emotionally, and requires great skill across a wide spectrum of abilities. These people are not, however, heroes – they are humans, who out of a sense of duty and compassion, continue to perform heroic acts, to the detriment of their physical and emotional health, receiving pay that is completely incommensurate to their contribution to society, and to the responsibility that rests upon their shoulders.

Two of my close personal friends have recently qualified into the profession. Due to the numbers of nurses and midwives leaving the workforce, one of them is regularly the most senior member of their team, despite only having been qualified for two years, often having to juggle multiple, simultaneous emergencies with only one other qualified staff member to hand. They are planning to relocate to another country, where circumstances aren’t so dire.

My other friend has already left the profession after one year, despite his team being desperate to retain him, as he felt so overstretched that he spent all of his time off worrying that he might have been rushed into an error that might have caused someone harm (though he never had). He is now a gardener.

Speaking to staff on my dad’s ward, they have said that wards are at breaking point, with Monday to Friday shifts being particularly hard to cover – weekend shifts are paid slightly better, making them more appealing to bank staff, leaving wards at their bare bones throughout the week. This often means that staff members are unable to take any breaks at all, during gruelling 12-hour shifts. As one nurse told me, “even machines need a break”.

The NHS is not a broken system. It is simply chronically underfunded, and consequently understaffed. The solution is incredibly straightforward – nurses and midwives need to be paid enough to retain its current staff, and to make the job attractive to new recruits. With the current maelstrom of crises encircling the country, both financial and societal, we cannot run the risk of letting healthcare continue to be a profession that takes so much more than it gives.

Before the pandemic, it was feared that the UK would need up to 150,000 more nurses over the coming decade. With the Government already falling far short of this target, it is a grim irony that this is the precise number of days that the NHS loses annually to mental-health related sick days amongst nurses and midwives.

Nurses are not simply striking because they want more money. They are striking for the ability to continue to carry out their work. They are striking to save the NHS. They are striking to save lives.
Rob MacNeacail, Carlops, Scottish Borders

Double standards on NHS recruiting

YOU reported this week that Nicola Sturgeon has committed £5 million for "reparations" to poorer nations affected by climate change ("Sturgeon promises £5m to nations hit by climate chaos", The Herald, November 8).

There has been much debate about this, with accusations of attention-seeking, virtue-signalling, and concerns about using borrowed money to send to other countries.

If she is this keen to avoid, or compensate, for harm to other countries, why did the SNP announce in October that it would spend up to £8 million to recruit 750 nurses, midwives and other healthcare workers from overseas? Surely, from Ms Sturgeon's vantage point on the moral high ground, it should be obvious that this is harmful to the countries of origin. John Swinney attempted to defend this position when substituting for Ms Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions today (November 10). He said that they would not recruit from the World Health Organisation's "Red List" of very poorest countries from whom medical personnel should not be poached.

Trained medical workers are unlikely to come to Scotland from well-off countries with equal or better pay and living standards than ours. They are more likely to come from poorer countries that have spent invested money on training and development for the benefit of their own people. Will we be compensating them as well?
Mark Openshaw, Aberdeen

Why people vote Labour

BRIAN Harvey (Letters, November 10) asks why people vote Labour. Let me answer his question by pointing out that the Labour Party’s Green Industrial Revolution proposes a number of concrete radical changes to our current economic, social and political models.

The Conservative Party has not shown any sign of even recognising the need for such a ground-breaking project, the purpose of which is to deal, in an imaginative way, with the consequences of the fundamental flaws, such as inequality, in our current systems. Neither have the nationalists, who cannot see beyond independence after which “everything will be all right” notwithstanding all the unanswered questions which I need not enumerate.

The potential consequences for the marginalised and vulnerable of the inevitable financial turmoil following independence are of no interest to the SNP.
John Milne, Uddingston

Shouldn't we scrap Westminster?

STERLING was trading at $1.40 in January 2018 but recently touched an all-time nadir of $1.03. Kwasi Kwarteng’s Budget left a £40 billion black hole in the UK finances and JP Morgan estimates it cost pension funds between $65 and £75 billion.

Christopher H Jones (Letters, November 10) suggests that by not having MSPs we could save “a staggering £17.288 million" and says "for the sake of financial expediency at this time of economic crisis why don’t we scrap Holyrood?”

May I suggest he has the right idea but the wrong numbers and most certainly the wrong address?
Alan Carmichael, Glasgow

Spain trip an eye-opener

I SPENT a week in Spain recently, on the Costa Blanca. The area is geared up for tourists, and the weather was sunny and hot, with sea-bathing and sun-soaking everyday. This is the sort of contrast that is expected against November wind and rain in Scotland. What was unexpected was the efficiency of their huge hotels, undaunted by lack of water, and under-staffed but providing a decent service. Sensors switch on lights when necessary. Solar power is evident on houses and in fields. Their railways are run on regenerating electricity. And the supermarkets are stocked with locally-sourced fresh fruit and vegetables, meat of every description, and full shelves of staple products.

The real contrast was the cost. Inflation reigns everywhere, but a supermarket shop is much cheaper in Spain than Scotland. For the price of coffee and cake in Scotland, you can buy a healthy three-course meal in Spain. I feel that Brexit has cost us dearly, and the solution of spending more time abroad in Europe has been cut to 90 days. Our UK Government has managed the deepest cut of all, that of slicing the nose off the face of our country.
Frances Scott, Edinburgh

Problems with Gaelic

THE lack of Gaelic teachers ("‘Isle of Skye should be home to Scotland’s first Gaelic university’", The Herald, November 10) is indeed very worrying. Bad enough that people won’t be able to determine whether it’s a police or ambulance vehicle, but how on earth will train commuters know when they’ve reached their station?
Gordon Whyte, Glasgow

Keep the heid ...

NIGEL Dewar Gibb (Letters, November 10) suggests that had the Gavin Williamson comment of “slit your throat” been used in the Scottish Parliament, it would have changed to “awa and bile yer heid”. I’m afraid your correspondent is getting ahead of himself.

Slitting the throat is simply a precursor to the boiling, given it is supremely difficult to find a suitable receptacle in which to “bile one’s heid” while the body remains attached. “Aff wi’ yer heid” might be deemed a suitable alternative for use in Holyrood, subject to approval of the Presiding Officer.
Alan M Morris, Blanefield


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