Health Secretary Matt Hancock has caused a backlash on Twitter for saying nurses still have to stand up when doctors enter the room in some NHS organisations.
In a speech to the Chief Nursing Officer for England’s summit in Birmingham on Thursday, Mr Hancock praised the hard work and dedication of nurses and said they “often make better leaders than doctors”.
But he said that in some “antiquated, archaic corners of the NHS” nurses still stand up for doctors and he called for the practice to stop.
He said it was a throwback to the days when his grandmother, Pem Hills, was a nurse at the Pilgrim Hospital in Lincolnshire.
He said: “Great leaders know the importance of making everyone feel valued, making everyone feel part of the same team, with the same mission.
“And I’ve found that nurses are some of the best leaders within the NHS.
“Nurses often make better leaders than doctors because you understand that caring for your staff is mission-critical for caring for your patients.
“You know hierarchy can be a hindrance to improvement.
“I find it shocking that, in my grandmother’s day, nurses were expected to stand up when a doctor entered the room.
“And worse, I find that’s still the case in some antiquated, archaic corners of the NHS. I want it to stop. If anything, it should be doctors standing up for nurses.
“Because who runs a hospital at 2am in the morning?
“Who keeps the show on the road?
“We need more nurses as leaders.”
His comments have provoked reaction on Twitter, with NHS doctor Pete Deveson, from Surrey, saying: “Don’t want to say Matt Hancock is *lying* here, but I’ve been an NHS doctor for 19 years and this has literally never happened.”
And he joked: “We’d get a lot more iv antibiotics given if nurses weren’t spending so much of their time curtseying.”
David Oliver, an NHS acute hospital doctor for 30 years, said: “I have never ever seen or heard of such a thing in 30 years as an NHS doc. It isn’t Downton Abbey.”
GP Elisabeth Flett said: “Very much doubt the nurses are sitting down anyway!”
Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, who uses the Twitter name Jeeves Wij, a GP trainee and chairman of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors’ committee, wrote: “Nurses are one of the most crucial parts of the workforce and we all should appreciate them more, but let’s get it right, at 2am, it’s nurses, junior doctors and our other health care staff running the hospital.”
Another commentator, Neil S, said: “My mum was a nurse for 40 odd years until the mid 90s rising to deputy director of nursing says and I quote ‘what a load of rubbish’.”
However, one former nurse called Betty said: “I started nurse training in 1970, and would say that when a consultant came onto the ward if you were sitting you stood, but only out of courtesy. Was it expected, it was the done thing.”
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) director for England, Patricia Marquis, said in a statement: “When I travel round England visiting members in hospitals and the community, I see nursing and medical staff working in partnership together, which has brought huge benefits for the health service.
“A bigger issue for nursing are the huge gaps in the workforce – we have almost 40,000 vacant posts in England alone at the moment.
“Nurses are on their feet 24 hours a day to cover shifts and keep wards running – the change that would help them most is more staff”.
The Twitter comments appeared on the Twitter feed of Health Service Journal reporter Shaun Lintern.