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Patients are a virtue

A nurse told me recently that she'd always found her job fulfilling but that times had changed and the current climate in the NHS made it impossible to carry out her work properly. The stress she felt was quite unbearable.

This is all too familiar a tale. The latest casualties are doctors in general practice and the British Medical Association is warning the Government that we are heading for a crisis: it is becoming more and more difficult to recruit GP's.

A medical student interviewed recently on the radio said she wouldn't become a GP because she didn't want to spend her time pushing figures around. If she had wanted to do that, she said, she would have trained to be an accountant.

Sir Ron Dearing has taken the scalpel to education reforms but it is too little too late. The same complaints about stress have been voiced by teachers and thousands have either left the profession or taken early retirement.

While we have a Patients' Charter and a Parents' Charter, there is no charter for the people who do the work and on whose dedication the success of reforms must rest. Their job satisfaction is seen as irrelevant; in the current jargon, they deliver services.

Believe it or not, most medical workers and teachers want to do a good job. They know how their work should be done and if they say the job satisfaction has gone it is a matter of public concern it means that the job itself is not being done properly.

Schools and hospitals are so clogged up with bureaucracy that the professional's ability to make informed decisions is being seriously hampered.

It is time the Government recognised that it is in the interest of the client or customer (patient or pupil to you and me) to respect the autonomy of professional workers in health and education. Currently their views are ignored and their status insulted. By implication they are not trusted to work effectively without numerous watchdogs and a management finger in every pie.

Michael Charles is a part-time teacher in a Kent secondary school

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