A leading nurse has told Premier that a Christian approach to healthcare could help make the difference in turning around dissatisfaction with the NHS.
Dr Mary Gobbi is Emeritus Professor of Nursing and Health Care Education at the University of Southampton and was commenting on new figures on the NHS published this week.
These show public satisfaction has slumped to its lowest level ever recorded by the long-running British Social Attitudes survey.
Just 29% said they were satisfied with the NHS in 2022, with waiting times and staff shortages the biggest concerns.
“They're not losing faith in the NHS or wanting a free service accessible for all”, Dr Gobbi told Premier Christian Radio.
“But what they are losing faith and trust in is the ability of the NHS to deliver what people need. And what they need at the moment is access to staff, access to treatment, and they want to feel valued during that process.”
Ratings for all services, from GPs and dentistry to general hospital care, fell. But it was Accident and Emergency which saw the biggest drop in satisfaction.
“What accounts for that”, Mary Gobbi continued, “is that it’s taking longer to get seen and also people's expectations. They do want to feel valued.”
“We've just had a series of strikes from health care professionals. They are saying to people, ‘things aren't right’. People are experiencing difficulties being in pain for longer, perhaps waiting on a trolley in A&E with a dying relative and with no privacy. These are not the experiences that people desire, want, nor should we accept.”
According to Dr Gobbi, who spent over 20 years in frontline nursing, care support workers and nurses are not working in the NHS for the money:
“They're there because they wish to give a service”, she told Premier. “And we know that Christians are quite a large proportion of the workforce in terms of the percentage of Christians in the health and caring services. “
“The perspective that we have is one that comes from Catholic Social Teaching, among other places, that the person is more than just a body in the bed.”
“We believe that the image of God is in all of us”, she continued. “That there is something divine and spiritual about people. And so if you can't express that, either, because society doesn't allow you to, or in a resource intensive way, you've got to have the time to be with people.”
The Social Attitudes survey showed the public most valued the NHS being free at the point of use and the quality of care when they were seen. It’s here that Professor Gobbi says Christians can contribute what she says is a “dialogue of value”:
“We have to say that everybody is valued. Yes, money is used. But how is that money distributed? What values are we holding up? Are we saying that when the resources are tight, that let's forget about certain groups of people? Or do we want to say, no, we want to value everyone?”
“Will we find somebody to sit with the dying person?” she added.
“Will somebody think in that busy situation, maybe this patient on the trolley could be moved from the middle of the corridor? Can we find another place to put them and that needs energy?
“So I think we can as Christians, people of faith, actually push that talk - where is the value? Where are we recognising this person in front of us, and really reaching out?”
“And in all cases that we see that image of God in the other person, we believe that they have a spirit that's there.”