I want to tell you about a nurse called Eileen who died, in her 60s, a few days ago.
She became ill five years ago and although she wanted to carry on working was unable to do so.
As a nurse she never thought she was good enough, never able to recognise just how good she was and how many nurses wanted to work and care as she did.
I got to know her on the ENT ward where we cared for patients with advanced head and neck cancers. She was an extremely competent nurse, reliable, thorough and up-to-date, but she was so much more than that. The word that I am going to use to describe her work does not appear in any job description, and that word is loving.
When you love you listen, see the other side, give time, try to understand, empower others, give people the confidence to speak, know when to be quiet and listen. When you love you do not judge or blame others for how they are, when you love you do not rush, you come back time and time again. When you love you support and go on supporting.
So I mourn for Eileen because she was all that, and I have a sense of what a loss she is, above all to her family, but to the NHS as well.
And I mourn for the NHS because it is now so difficult to nurse as Eileen did, so difficult to give the time and unconditional love that she did.
There never will be enough Eileens in our hospitals. Only this week I have heard of two good nurses who have resigned because they cannot nurse as they feel they should and because managers have not listened. Good loving nursing needs more nurses.
Please, please, my beloved NHS, let nurses love and care as Eileen did and others do, and give them the time to.
Please do not lose any more and make her sort of nursing something to aspire to.
Eileen was cared for in Cransley Hospice. The nurses there gave time, care and love. It can and should be done.