We were asked to comment by Radio Sheffield early on Monday morning, but nobody was available to make an instant response. Our comments would have included:
- NHS staff are under enormous pressure, not least because of the current reform proposals and the efficiency cuts. The idea of asking relatives to provide more help is not new but it is absolute nonsense to suggest that relatives should be doing basic physical and nursing care tasks for hospital patients.
- Most relatives who are able to visit are probably only too willing to do some extra so that their loved ones are comfortable. But that is extra - not providing the basics. Families are under pressure too - the demands of modern life are already stressful but the government is adding to them by reducing benefits and allowances, forcing parents to look for work even when there are few jobs available, and encouraging people to be mobile. Working days are getting longer again and people may have much further to go. Hospitals can be expensive to visit in terms of rising bus fares and parking fees. To add an expectation that relatives should spend more time in hospital visits makes one question what officials think hospital 'care' is all about. It breaks some of the basic understandings about the NHS.
- There are real issues about the differentiation between nursing care and the work of less well paid health care assistants. First we have health care assistants often feeling forced to do work which is beyond their job description in order to cope with a lack of nurses; then we have relatives being asked to do the work of health care assistants for free. It is a disgrace.