But the biggest thing I’ve learnt is that if you go back to 2019, you would see a time when the NHS was deemed to be under more pressure than it ever had been before, that it was struggling more than ever before. That was the narrative in the media. But I knew, having been an auxiliary nurse back in, you know, 1989, that it was way better, unrecognisably better than it ever was before, certainly since I’ve started. Really the problem was the mismatch and expectation on NHS staff, what was it possible for them to deliver and what did society expect us to deliver. And it was that mismatch in expectations of what was possible that was the biggest source of stress on NHS staff.
And so what I’ve learnt in this pandemic is that there does not seem to be any limit to how far NHS staff are prepared to go, you know, that they know they’re putting their mental health, their physical health at risk and they still turn up for work. They see patient numbers doubling, tripling in ways that would be unbelievable, you know, 12 months before and still they turn up and they dig deeper and deeper and deeper. You would think you would reach a point where everybody said, well, this is enough, not doing any more, I’ve reached my limit, I’ve done my bit, nobody can say I haven’t done my bit, I’ve done as much as anybody else, I’m going home now, you know, I’m going to stop. But they don’t do that, you know, they don’t do that, they just carry on and the harder the challenge gets, the deeper they dig.
And it’s hard to explain that I no longer believe there is a limit to what NHS staff will do if they’re asked to do it. And that realisation has just completely changed my view of the people who work in the NHS, of the organisation itself unrecognisably, it’s not the organisation I thought it was. I thought I knew all about the NHS, having worked in it for 30 years, but really has changed everything.