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Welcome back – to the same old rubbish

May 22, 2015

Few players emerged with much credit from the appalling case of Victorino Chua, the nurse whose poisoning spree at Stepping Hill Hospital cost three patients their lives and left many others with physical and psychological scars. Not the police, who initially charged the wrong person; not the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), who had to defend themselves against accusations that lax procedures had allowed Chua to register in the UK, despite suspicions that qualifications obtained in his native Philippines were fake; and certainly not Chua himself, who throughout his trial declined to reveal what motivated him to kill, apparently at random, those he was employed to protect.

The Daily Mail, on the other hand, was practically flaccid with delight. Scenting in the Chua case an unmissable opportunity to fuel its toxic discourse of uppity degree nurses and devious foreigners using every trick in the book to nick British jobs, it could barely contain itself.

Nowhere was this more clearly articulated than in the jaw-droppingly vitriolic piece by Dr Max Pemberton. In a bewilderingly convoluted chain of logic, he managed to link reliance on supposedly inarticulate foreign staff (‘‘What’s the patient’s blood pressure?’ I will ask a nurse — and often receive the answer ‘Yes’’. Oh really? That’s never happened to me Maxie, and I bet I speak to more nurses than you do) to degree nursing (‘One key reason for this [nursing] shortage is that the role of nurses has changed dramatically…With a degree, capable and intelligent nurses no longer have to spend years on wards doing tasks which many now consider below them’) and then to something bordering on a defence of racism.

None of this has much relevance to Victorino Chua. Monster he may be, but I have yet to read anything to suggest he can’t speak English. It’s just another example of the DM using nursing as a vehicle for gratuitous attacks on career women and Johnny Foreigner. So let’s pause for a reality check, shall we? It is government policy that is largely to blame for nursing shortages – cuts in training places (now partially reversed) and forcing Trusts to balance their books, which many did by shedding staff (again, now reversing in the acute sector, but not keeping pace with soaring demand).

After a break from blogging, it’s deeply depressing to find myself returning to the same old rubbish. I can’t even be bothered to critique the almost-daily helpings of bile spewed out by the Daily Mail on the subject of nursing. It’s just too repetitive. Except to say that while it’s true that the NMC, whose whole raison d’être is supposed to be public protection, may indeed have questions to answer, Victorino Chua did not kill because he is Filipino – any more than Beverley Allitt killed because her place of birth is within a few miles of Margaret Thatcher’s.

And anyway, you can’t have it both ways. At the same time as the Mail was allowing the good doctor to treat us to his antediluvian views on nursing, it was simultaneously outraged – in another lurid item on Victorino Chua – that documentation confirming he had obtained a nursing degree in the Philippines may have been forged. But what’s the problem with that, exactly? In the strange, topsy-turvy world of the Daily Mail, surely NOT having a degree should have made him a better nurse, shouldn’t it?

An uplifting postscript to this story is viewable here.

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