David Cameron has today called for the provision of a dedicated maternity nurse for every new mother for up to six hours a day in the first week after her new baby's birth, according to a front page story in today's Observer. I applaud the notion, as most Liberal Democrats are only too aware that early intervention can make a huge impact on future outcomes. Besides, such a strategy needs to be seen as an investment in the future.
However, there is a potential hitch. The National Health Service finds the recruitment of nurses to be very difficult and, as a result, our hospitals are propped up by an army of nurses from developing world countries. Thus, if we need 'thousands more nurses', as is indicated, where are they going to come from? The Philippines? Malawi? And, of course, Conservatives are so in favour of migration from anywhere...
There is, of course, an alternative, entirely consistent with the free market that Conservatives and, frankly, some of my colleagues, bang on about at such length. One of the reasons why recruitment of nurses is so difficult is that salary scales are, in comparison with other sectors, fairly low. You can probably earn more as a PA than as a nurse, and not have to deal with the unpleasant side of sick people.
Of course, the public sector only has to reflect the risk elements of a free market, and not the rewards, as far as pay is concerned. Until politicians understand that, great ideas will founder on the rocks of a lack of capable public sector staff to deliver on the ground.