Well if you were the editor of a tabloid which would you have gone
for - the tea party for old nurses with ’an opportunity to hear stories
from the formative days of the NHS’, offered by the Royal College of
Nursing, or Anthea Turner and Chris Evans in camped up nurses’ gear?
To be honest, I’ve worked in the NHS for six years and I’d never heard
of Nurses’ Day until Chris Evans decided to splash it on his Virgin
radio programme and later on TFI Friday. A lot of what was done there
reflected well on nurses and the job they do. There is no question,
however, that the skimpy dress Anthea was wearing did cause offence
among nurses. Our nurses are frustrated enough that the public doesn’t
realise how specialised their training is and the extent to which they
now perform tasks only doctors would previously have carried out. The
sexy Carry On image is so far from their daily reality that the idea
that Anthea’s dress was a fair representation of nurses makes their
Of course, as Chris and Anthea made clear later, they didn’t think it
was a fair representation - it was ’a bit of fun’, meant to offend no
one. So, having got into a hole where nurses are seen as bimbos and a
national celebrity is getting major flack for not taking them seriously,
how did the spin teams do? Not bad actually.
The Royal College of Nursing press office got good coverage over the
next few days with stories featuring real nurses that just wouldn’t have
been news if Anthea hadn’t pulled her stunt. They also came up with the
idea of inviting Anthea to a hospital to spend some time with nurses
and, to her credit, she accepted. The visit took place at St Thomas’ and
she didn’t get the easiest ride in the world, but the coverage she’ll
get in the nursing press won’t do her any harm.
Lessons for next year? The RCN needs to use a bit more imagination and
make sure it’s got a good tabloid photo-op if it doesn’t want to get
upstaged by someone else’s.
Chris Evans? If you want to celebrate Nurses’ Day, a quick call to the
RCN or Unison and you can have all the advice in the world about how not
to hack nurses off. This is the 50th anniversary of the NHS - Anthea in
a 1948 nurses’ uniform would have been just as good a photo-op and would
have offended no one.