UK nurses complain that they are victims of a heartless establishment. But on the very day a survey on their conditions was out, a nurse had to quit in shame after screaming at a heart attack patient, left lying in urine.
Transport manager Mark Wright, 39, was left on a trolley after being admitted to the General Hospital in his home town of Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, with severe chest pains.
"I was in agony and scared I was having a heart attack," said Mark. "I wet myself, probably due to nerves, and the nurse didn't change me for two hours even after my wife asked her. It was very uncomfortable."
Next day distressed Mark completed a complaint form and gave details of ward conditions. He said: "The stench was unbearable. The ward stank of urine and there was grime all over the floors and window sills. "When my little boy came to visit me he was sick because of the stench. That's how bad it was."
The unnamed nurse, thought to be in her 50s, erupted when she read the form. The nurse told him: "You've got no f***ing right talking like that, no f***ing right to be complaining."
Mark said: "She just started screaming at me, effing and blinding.
"She said she was going to retire in a few days and the complaint would affect her pension." It was in front of all the other patients...." Hospital chiefs gave Mark a written apology and told the nurse she was guilty of gross misconduct. She then resigned.
Mark's wife Rebecca, 40, said: "The treatment he received was atrocious and it gets me angry just thinking about it." But then 70 per cent of nurses interviewed in a survey done by Nursing Times magazine say they suffered from physical or mental health problems linked to work-related stress.
Some 44% said their sex life was suffering as a result and a quarter said they had started drinking more. Nursing Times blamed the pressure of financial deficits and the threat of job cuts. The poll also found one in 10 nurses were smoking more, and almost a third reported taking off more days sick than usual.
More than one in five of those surveyed had taken 30 or more days off during the last year. Dr Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: "Nurses are under pressure, under valued and under paid. "Stress is a serious issue for nurses who run the daily gamut of violence and abuse from patients and relatives, as well as coping with the day-to-day pressures of having to do ever more with fewer resources because of deficit-led cost cutting.
"When you add to that worries about job security and a pay cut, it comes as no surprise that stress levels are affecting nurses' personal lives and relationships." A RCN poll last year found more than a quarter of nurses surveyed had been physically attacked at work, while nearly half had been bullied or harassed by a manager.
Steve Barnett, director of National Health Service (NHS) Employers, said the impact of stress on NHS employees was "vastly under-estimated".
He said work-related stress was responsible for 30% of sickness absence in the NHS - and cost the service Ģ300-400million a year.
However, he said NHS Employers had launched a campaign to combat stress, which seemed to be having an effect.