Nurses, Cricket and Anti-Semitism

By Wilby, Peter | New Statesman (1996), November 23, 2009 | Go to article overview

Nurses, Cricket and Anti-Semitism


Wilby, Peter, New Statesman (1996)


One of the great diseases of the modern era--somebody once called it the "diploma disease"--is to require ever higher qualifications for what used to be straightforward jobs. Librarians once needed only a love of books, accountants a head for figures, and journalists, as the late Nicholas Tomalin put it, "rat-like cunning, a plausible manner, and a little literary ability". Now, they all (in practice, if not formally) need degrees. By 2013, if the health minister Ann Keen has her way, nurses will join the list.

My concern is that, in order for nursing to be accepted as a degree-level discipline, the essentials of the job will be submerged in spurious academic theory. Medicine has two sides to it: the "bedside manner", which involves reassuring, cosseting and encouraging patients, and the technological side of drugs, surgery, kidney machines and so on.

Before the 20th century, the first was medicine's only useful function; nearly all the "treatment" doctors gave made patients worse, not better. Now doctors focus successfully on the technological side but most of us still value the "caring" functions of nursing. Indeed, while doctors are regarded with growing suspicion, nurses retain high levels of public esteem and trust. We should value their distinctive qualities, not turn them into people who have the same skill set as doctors but at a lower level.

I often wonder what would happen to the driving test if academics ever got their hands on it. The history of the motor car, the physics of the internal combustion engine, the chemistry of petrol, the psychology of pedestrian movement--all these and much else would be deemed essential for safe and competent driving and add up to a three-year degree course. At least the roads would be less congested. I cannot think of comparable benefits for nursing.

Sky's the limit

I dislike finding myself on the same side as Rupert Murdoch, but I am uneasy about the proposal that cricket's Ashes matches between England and Australia should be free-to-air, instead of being shown, as they are now, exclusively on Sky. The Ashes are the only cricket matches that command wide public interest and, if he didn't get them, Murdoch would pay little, if anything, for other cricket. What worries me is not the loss of funds for the "development" of young crickecers--English sportsmen are now "developed" more than any previous generation, and little good it does them--but the possibility that Murdoch will imitate another media magnate (and his fellow Australian), the late Kerry Packer. Denied TV rights to cricket in the 1970S, Packer bought up all the top players and put on his own matches. Cricket was thrown into worldwide turmoil. Murdoch is rich enough--and may be spiteful enough--to do the same.

Never mind the bullock

My heart sank when I saw John Humphrys in the chair for BBCI's Question Time after David Dimbleby lost his argument with a bullock. …

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