Negativity is a real pain in the neck rn

So, I’ve hurt my neck. I’m trying to be all professional nurse and use fancy medical words like ‘scapula’ and ‘analgesia’ and ‘sternocleidomastoid’ but it’s more general pointing at the hurty neck bit with a lot of ‘holy hell someone shoot me now I can’t take any more of this pain just end it, end it all.’

It all started with a bad pillow, and washing my hair like some sort of 1990s peasant with a handheld showerhead over a luxury Jacuzzi tub (get it together Sentido – people don’t want BATHS on a holiday where all the signage states that the island is facing a drought and not to have a bath at any cost I don’t need that level of guilt when assessing my personal hygiene options thank you very much), coupled with some in-sleep jerking during one of my sleepless nights and/or Trump-based nightmares.

I feel a little bit responsible for his becoming president. I’ve had many, many dreams – mostly horrifyingly sexual in nature – about the orange one from about 2005.

Alas, my neck bones have failed me

It’s horrendous. The dreams, yes, but also the pain.

David has been plying me with Pringles and Skittles in an effort to appease the beast me and it’s just not working. Nothing is taking the pain away. No position is comfortable.

He’s been asking me to check myself before I wreck myself, but I think we’re beyond wreckage here. We’re at Independence Day level annihilation. I Am Legend destruction. Walking Dead obliteration. Without hot people. There are no people. In fact, I’m the zombie in this scenario.

There’s nothing left to wreck, at this stage. He’s literally just read this post, asked if I’ve gone insane, backed away slowly and screamed ‘MY SCOOPS!’ at the kitten who’d just sashayed into the bedroom, probably wondering where her Dreamies are (she’s all about the treats the fat slob). I blame the pain.

Turns out the neck is actually quite a vital part of the body.

Who knew.

I’ve also been trying to get on a full-on positivity kick. Now, I’m quite a scathing person. I love sarcasm. I grew up with a clutter of uncles whose main aim was to embarrass me and my sister at any costs. Any. Costs.

I learnt pretty early on that showing weakness such as crying, bribery, or frantic begging them to please stop just stop, doesn’t work. In fact, reacting in any other way than an equally scathing retort actually revealed the source of your weakness and usually resulted in more teasing and tomfoolery.

Ain’t so fun when they’re asking you in front of your grandparents to describe whether the ginger-haired boy you kick around with at school is your boyfriend because we really don’t need another set of gingers in the family thank you very much.

So, basically, being sarcastic has been inbuilt from birth. Finding the negative in any situation is second-nature. Or first-nature. Just nature at this point.

But, the brain can be rewired, see. It learns. Connections can be unplugged and reformed. Yes yes, we all know the addage it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks is baloney, so this bitch is giving it a go.

I’ve been trying to see the good in all people for a start. People like Gary* on holiday, who insisted on wearing a full set of football scrubs? kit? uniform? to every meal, and moaned that the food being served on this Greek Island was far too Greek for his tastes. People like Kaeyhtiee* who loudly announced to her boyfriend, eyes darting around to ensure people were watching her, that PEOPLE recognised her and that once she took off her sunglasses they’d KNOW WHO SHE WAS!!1!1!. People online like Emeline* who ‘find themselves’ after spending a fortune on travelling, who berate other people who don’t travel because they’ve found themselves so hard right now which clearly means you haven’t found yourself and therefore are stupid but who also have a Donate button on their blog slash online bullet journal because they aren’t quite done finding themselves yet.

Mate, it’s tough. You know how many twitter drafts – replies to general whiny, passive aggressive, ‘could this BE any more of a first world issue?’ tweets – I’ve had to delete? Too many.

But, generally, the positivity kick has been going ok. I feel like the negativity pool I would usually dip right into is slowly drying up in the heat of the positivity sun and resulting positivity famine, with all the wild negative thought animals that would drink from its negative waters dehydrated, dead, and rotting away to positivity dust. Positivity buzzards hover above, waiting to pick away the last of the negative meat, after the positivity hyenas have devoured the negativity carcass. Slightly macabre there but you get the gist.

The neck, though, has scuppered this plan. Turns out being in constant pain for a week causes the negativity clouds to block the positivity sun (I’m stopping this metaphor now) and I revert back to my previous form. As that’s the case, I’ve been plying myself with a steady stream of kittens, ducklings, golden retriever puppy photos. It’s working, slightly.

My neck still hurts though.

*Not real names, but best guesses

Images via

11 things they don’t tell you about being a student nurse

Are you thinking about becoming a student nurse? Waiting to start your first year? Perhaps you’re a third-year student who’s on the cusp of getting their elusive PIN and wondering if other people have felt the same way about student nurse life as you do. Maybe you’re a reader wondering why we do what we do. Because there are secrets about nursing school that no open day will talk about…

1. Hole-y Moley, it’s open season

On my first day of placement, I was asked to provide personal hygiene to a bay and a half of patients. This means cleaning from literal head to literal toe and every orifice in between. Bums, boobs, willies and balls, students get up close and (not too) personal from day 1. There are some nurses who opted out of the course after being handed a pack of Conti sheets, a bottle of soap, and a bay of patients. As a student, never, ever be known as the person who’s too posh to wash. If you feel like personal care isn’t your thing, go to medical school. Trust me, you’ve not seen genuine horror on someone’s face like a junior doctor being asked to assist with cleaning up after the enema they prescribed.

2. References are life, evidence is key

Nursing is an evidence-based profession. If it wasn’t, we’d still be trepanning to relieve migraines, and using pure cut heroin to deal with infant colic. No, everything you learn has a reason, a rationale behind it. And every policy – from how to move a patient to spinal surgery – is based on evidence. You need to get out of thinking you’re doing something purely because your mentor has told you to, and think about the rationale behind it. Otherwise, we’re back to giving lobotomies for depression (incredibly, in the linked paper the writer seems surprised at the ‘lack of cooperation’ displayed by a patient about to have an ice pick shoved into their eye socket) and labelling women as hysterical after they suffer a bereavement and don’t eat normally for a few weeks. In which case, clearly the best way to treat such an evidently hysterical woman is for a chloral hydrate sedative, a potassium bromide anti-convulsant, and either milk or BEEF BROTH to be administered RECTALLY. Seriously. Which brings me on to my next point…

3. Criticism is vital, trust no one

Just because you feel like you’re ‘only a student nurse’ doesn’t mean you can’t be critical of others’ work. If we just took everything ever published as doctrine, we would still be shoving beef stock and potassium up people’s bums if they suffered a bereavement. I mean, this advice was actually published in the British Medical Journal, which even today is well respected. It took someone to say ‘Hang on, do you think the previously non-compliant patient became compliant because she didn’t fancy being held down for an embarrassing enema every day, rather than the beef concoction itself?’ Remember this: You are never just a nurse. Doctors get things wrong. All. The. Time. In practice and in theory. Have the confidence to say ‘mate, that just doesn’t seem right’ if you think it doesn’t seem right.

things they don't tell you about being a student nurse

4. ‘You’re becoming a nurse? WHY?!’

I’ve heard this from family, friends, and random people who’ve asked what I do for work. You see the look of horror on their face as you explain you’re a student nurse. Everything from the rubbish salary to the sometimes gruesome nature of the role will be presented to you. ‘But you know you’ll see dead people?’ ‘Don’t you want to make proper money?’ ‘Why on EARTH would you want to HELP PEOPLE, you SELFLESS CARING idiot?’ Always remember your reasons for becoming a nurse, and never let someone else’s negative perceptions of the profession undermine your joy.

5. Life becomes all about nursing

Placements are long and essays are abundant. Mix in med calc, bioscience and OSCEs and it’s really difficult to not feel overwhelmed. Something has to give, whether that’s spending time with family, or giving up a hobby, or only sleeping 5 hours a night. Ensure you maintain a healthy balance, but be prepared to say no to social functions in favour of a health promotion case study every now and then.

6. Patients will tell you EVERYTHING

Often, patients won’t know you’re a student nurse. They see the tunic and the badge and to them, you’re as qualified as the consultant who just ordered their spinal surgery. As that’s the case, you’ll hear life stories, regrets, and everything else borne out of the fear they may not get better. Even a Catholic priest at Confession doesn’t have a patch on a student nurse’s inside information. Because oftentimes, you’re the person they open up to, and you’ll be surprised what you can learn. Sometimes, patients will reveal more secrets to students than your mentor. Treasure that privilege.

things they don't tell you about being a student nurse

7. Nurses can be bullies

There are bullies in every walk of life, and sadly there are bullies in nursing. But never let their failings as a decent person affect your passion and drive to succeed. Nurses who are jaded and bored with their job sometimes take it out on fresh-faced students rather than actually deal with their own shortcomings. If things get awful, then use your union and university to ensure your learning isn’t compromised. And most of all, feel sad that someone acts in such a way. Clearly they’re unhappy, yet so mindlessly bone idle they won’t fix their own issues like an actual adult.

8. You will find the only place in the hospital with phone signal

After a tough morning, sometimes you just need some contact with the outside world to remind you that most people sit at a desk from 9-5 and don’t need to deal with bad news, rude patients, body fluids and long days. Most wards and placement areas are a black hole and soulless vacuum of signal. As a student nurse, within a few days, you’ll be able to find that one toilet in the cafe that brings glorious 4G back into your life. Treasure it.

9. Say goodbye to your gag reflex

Your lunch will involve discussing mushy stools and whether that infected leg smells like necrosis or a simple ulcerous infection. You’ll know what a UTI wee smells like, and what rotting flesh looks like. Vomit will remind you to get your slow cooker out as you really fancy a stew for dinner tomorrow, and Type 7 stools will have you a-hankering for Nutella on toast. Don’t be surprised if someone on the next table asks you to change the subject before they projectile vomit all over the cafe walls.

10. You wear scrubs at home because really they’re just outside pyjamas

Turning up to placement in your pressed and starched uni tunic only to be given a pair of freshly laundered scrubs to wear is the best feeling in the world. Scrubs will become the major influence factor in considering job options when you graduate too. Seriously, they’re like wearing PJs at work. Without all the people wondering if you’re suffering a bit of a mental breakdown. I’m wearing some right now.

11. People will be ridiculously proud of you

For every bitter, jaded, unhappy nurse who says you’re making a mistake entering the profession, for every random member of the public who looks down on your decision, for every family member who doesn’t understand how you can cope with the gruesome reality of nursing, there will be a myriad of people who will be so, so proud of what you’re learning. They’ll ask your advice – and actually take it seriously – when they feel unwell. They’ll introduce you as ‘our nurse’ rather than ‘our daughter/cousin/friend’. They’ll respect you and be so happy that you’re becoming a competent professional. They’ll love how much you progress, and beam at your dedication. They’ll make you feel like it’s worth it, that you’re just brilliant. And you’ll feel so proud. And so you should, too.

Win! A set of luxury scrubs, with Happy Threads

To celebrate the launch of Big City Little Nurse thanks to Lioness Website Design, we’ve teamed up with Happy Threads to give away a set of luxury scrubs to one reader. A future in surgery and theatres beckons for me, so I got my hands on a pair of ultra-luxe Koi Comfort scrubs. David will attest to the fact I’ve not really taken them off since they arrived. They are SO comfortable, ultra professional, and super functional too. With pockets for days, fitted seams and an elasticated waistband, I genuinely wish it was acceptable to wear them out and about.

Who am I kidding, of course I wear them out and about.

If you’d like to get your hands on a super pair of scrubs for yourself or a friend, simply follow the step in the snazzy app! If you need any help and for some secret tips to increasing your chances scroll down for more info. You’ll need to make sure you enter via the Gleam app as when we randomly pick a winner it’ll be from the email address provided.

The competition is open internationally, so wherever your beat is around the world, anyone can enter.

Win a pair of Happy Threads scrubs!

1. You’ll need to visit Happy Threads’ website to get started. This gives you one entry per day, so there’s the option to get 31 total entries. You’ll also need to pop in your name and email address so we can contact you if you’re a winner.

2. Once you’ve got a feel for the brand and their lovely scrubs head back here to complete the second step – Instagram. Follow @bigcitylittlenurse and @happythreadsnews.

That’s your three entries and the minimum you need to do to enter – by doing steps one and two above you’ll have at least three chances of winning. If you only complete one setp your entry won’t be valid.

You could step here but…

3. For even more chances to win add your own photo to your Instagram account, making sure to use the hashtag (it’s hidden until the first two steps are completed to make sure your entry has definitely been counted). You can enter once a day, so there’s a chance for a whopping 150 entries here! Woohoo!

All the best!

7 ways to safeguard your mental health at nursing school

A bit of a weird one to talk about, no? You’d think so. But with student nurses coming under incredible pressure to succeed on the course, it’s really important to understand how to safeguard mental health over the three years of study, placements, and exams.

A survey held by The Insights Network and Dig-In questioned over 17,000 UK students on a variety of courses. 24% reported they’d thought about taking their own life and 69% said they felt anxious and refused to discuss their issues with family or friends for fear of being labelled and stigmatised. IPPR reported that students reporting mental health issues increased fivefold, with over 15,000 students declaring a mental health issue in the first year of their studies.

Research also shows female nurses are 23% more likely to commit suicide than the general public, likely feeling overwhelmed and possessing the knowledge of methods of suicide, thus making any attempts fatal with a low risk of resuscitation. With Sally Cooper, Lucy de Oliveira and Alexander Hocken all taking their lives over the past few years, we need to ensure we’re looking after our own health, as well as that of others.

1. Take care of your body

With 14-hour night shifts and seven-day working weeks, nursing school is full of pressure. It can be horrendous getting into a pattern of night shifts while trying to manage a home as well as fit in time for revision, so make sure you eat a balanced diet. It’s really easy to just pack a bag of crisps, some kind of sarnie and a chocolate bar for an energy boost, but overloading with carbs and sugar won’t do anyone any favours.

How to do this: Prepare healthy meals full of fat, protein and vitamins for those evenings when you have no energy to cook and take healthy snacks to shift and for those oh so dull lectures at uni. Try to cut out carbs and avoid using sugar as a quick energy fix.

2. Drink plenty of water

As a nurse, you know the damage dehydration can cause. Everything from UTIs to delirium can result from not taking in enough fluids and losing electrolytes. You know you’ve seen it before in your patients, so why do you think you’re any different? Take time to ensure you’re keeping your intake up, and you’ll be surprised at how much easier the little things become.

How to do this: Make sure you drink at least 200mls eight times during the day. A cuppa in the morning, a glass at break time, a swig of juice during shift and repeat. Any mentor who says you don’t have the time to drink is a bad mentor. Remember this.

3. Remember your value

We all get stuff wrong and we all make mistakes. But this doesn’t mean you’re a bad person and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re a terrible nurse. Placements are there to ensure we learn from the many, many mistakes we all make. And trust me, every nurse – whether they’re an NQN or a charge nurse – has a plethora of cringe-worthy memories where they’ve done something tremendously stupid. You were good enough to get a coveted space at uni (think of how many students you saw fail their interviews) and you’re good enough to succeed.

How to do this: Reflect on the times you’ve been complemented by a patient or your mentor. What did they say about your practice that was good? If you can’t think of a time when this happened, don’t worry. Plan to be a mentor for the new nurses starting in the cohort below yours. Speak to your university about buddy systems – they’re a great way to prove to yourself just how much you know.

4. Developing a stress-busting strategy

Stress is horrendous, but it’s part of life. Whether it’s exam pressure, med calc nerves, or a horrendous placement, it’s vital to learn a few coping mechanisms that work for you. But combatting stress and reflecting on step three above, you’ll be able to power through any eventuality in a healthy way.

How to do this: Take one minute out to focus on your breathing, in and out, in and out. For one minute, tense all the muscles in your feet, then legs, then bum, then chest and arms, and release. Focus on how the tension feels, then focus on relaxing your entire body. These little exercised can help you physically cope with stress.

5. Surround yourself with your faves

Whether that’s your partner, your family, or your friends, surround yourself with people who have been there for you through thick and thin. Because as much as you need someone to champion you, sometimes you just don’t want them to push you. Sometimes, you just need to forget it all and remember life before the 6Cs and competencies and OSCEs and essays. Nursing school is great, but it’s not your life. Put down the books and enjoy life.

How to do this: Take a night a week to totally forget about uni, and spend time with people who are positive, friendly and welcoming. Not sure your friends cut the mustard? Find new friends at uni, or using social meetups in your city.

6. Speak to someone

Sometimes, stuff happens in life that impacts on everything else. Whether it’s a breakup, bereavement or just something troubling you, speak to someone to pour out all your worries. This could be university and student wellness support services, or the Samaritans who I can personally attest to. It’s really unhealthy to bottle everything up (and as someone who hates revealing my weaknesses, I know personally just how terrible this is) so allow yourself the kindness to release your fears. Validate how you feel. It’s OK to feel angry. It’s ok to feel upset. Yes logic says they’re just feelings, they don’t change the present situation, but who cares? They are YOUR feelings. Nothing else, not even your own logical brain, matters.

How to do this: It might be impossible for someone close to you to understand so make a list of services available to you, and keep the list handy. You might be reading this now and not need them yet, but if anything changes you’ll have a to-call list ready to go.

7. Speak to your tutor

If you’re stressing about deadlines and worried about failing then sometimes university can help you, too. They’d rather help you cope with your feelings and concerns than have you crumple into a heap of negative thinking and helplessness. Just because everyone else seems to be doing well doesn’t mean they are, and tutors might be able to get you extra support, extended deadlines and extra time for placement and exams.

How to do this: request time with your tutor or lecturer to discuss how you’re feeling. And also, have a list of things that might help. By going to your tutor with your problems and what you think will help, this helps them work with you rather than suggesting solutions that won’t be of any use to you at all. If they can’t make what you need to happen actually happen, they might be able to find a workaround.

Do you have any coping tips for when school just feels like it’s all too much?

Relaunch: Attendant, W1W | Big City, Little Nurse

Don’t lie. We all know there’s a good chance you’re reading this while enjoying the peace and escape from reality the bathroom brings. Shut away from the world with no interruptions (unless you have two cats who demand to supervise you throughout…), bathrooms make for perfect breaks and a chance to catch up on the news of the day. If you say you’ve never checked your phone on the loo, you’re a liar. I bet even the Queen does it.

So where better to enjoy some solace from London’s busiest streets than Attendant, Fitzrovia’s subterranean loo-based coffee shop. Formerly a disused Victorian toilet, laying dormant for a good fifty years or so, it was reopened in 2013 as a unique haunt for serious coffee fanatics. Think baristas who know their trade inside and out, who aren’t happy to use any old coffee bean. It’s just been completely refurbished and will soon welcome back hipsters and confused tourists alike with the promise of coffee, cake and all things brunch. Just make sure you keep your pants on.

I’m a huge fan of the Shoreditch venue which was my regular haunt when I worked in the city. The coffee was always fresh and delicious and staff were happy to have me sit for a few hours, laptop on lap, while I did all the business things. I would even get a free coffee on the house every now and then, that’s just how friendly the team are. Don’t believe me? All three of their venues have brilliant reviews for their fab coffee and delicious food, so while Fitzrovia’s toilet-themed cafe is a great little gimmick, there’s more to it than urinals and quirkiness.

Fancy a free flat white? Then it’s time to get involved. If you’re passing by Foley Street on Thursday 23rd November leave some inspirational graffiti on the Attendant’s whitewashed wall and share your story using #AttendantStories on all the usual places. Once you’ve shared, you’ll be eligible for one free cuppa during when at any of their venues from Saturday 2nd December.

More details here.
Attendant Fitzrovia: 27A Foley St, London W1W 6DY
Goodge Street, Oxford Circus, Great Portland Street
Attendant Clerkenwell: 75 Leather Lane, London, EC1N 7TJ
Attendant Shoreditch: 74 Great Eastern Street, London, EC2A 3JL
Old Street

Glitter cocktails and blindfolds at Smith & Sinclair’s Flavour Rooms, N1

The guys who made inhalable cocktails, scratch and sniff booze, and edible bubbles are back with a sensory experience to rival all others. Smith & Sinclair’s multi­-sensorial experience, The Flavour Gallery, has arrived in London’s East End and isn’t it a treat? The gallery pop-up invites the public to consume art in ways they never imagined by using all their senses to explore each piece of original artwork.

Now, I’m not a fan of art galleries. I’ve never seen the allure of staring at a painting for hours on end. I know that’s the way some people like to spend their free time, but it’s just not enough for me. Bring on The Flavour Rooms at this oh-so-special gallery, which serves to show people like me that art doesn’t need to be all looksie no touchy. Feelable exhibitions, thermal walls, inhalable aromas and lots more will challenge perceptions of how art should be consumed. Brave ones will be blindfolded and taken through the tactile room, using only their hands, eyes and noses to experience art in a totally different way. Oh, and blogger favourite God’s Own Junkyard have donated some illuminating displays to boot.

This is an alcohol themed pop-up, so visitors will also get their hands on cocktail pastilles (that’s right, they’re 7% ABV) to munch, nibble and well, anything-but sip on to take the experience that little bit further. Think: sweets that are not suitable for the kids unless you fancy a call from social services. Once your mind’s been suitable challenged actual real-life drink-from-a-glass creations, such as charcoal and glitter cocktails including or sans alcohol, will also be on offer for punters who need to unwind after all that stimulation.

The gallery will only be around for a while on select Wednesdays to Sundays before it disappears into oblivion, so be sure to book a £15 ticket before it’s too late. Not in London? Definitely get your hands on some those boozy sweets. It’ll be worth it.

To book tickets, click here.

The Hoxton Basement, 12-18 Drysdale Street, London, N1 6ND
Old Street, Shoreditch High Street, Hoxton

5 reasons to try a cookery class in 2018

I don’t have time to cook. I say I don’t have time, but I actually mean I hate cooking. I love food, don’t get me wrong. One of the SHOs (SHO is the a term for a Senior House Officer, basically, a doctor who’s completed both foundation years but haven’t specialised just yet. Technically they’re not called SHOs in a professional capacity, but the name’s stuck) brought in a 24 pack of Krispy Kreme doughnuts last week and I honestly nearly cried. If you want to make a nurse cry, bring them a box of doughnuts. Seriously.

David is the cook of the house, purely because he’s good at cooking and likes it. So when an invite to a cookery class hosted by Curry’s PC World x AEG popped up in the team inbox, he was adamant we’d be going. Forgetting the fact I had a 5am start the following day, of course I said I’d go with him. After a disastrous taxi journey in which a child was very nearly run down, we arrived at The Cookery School in Hertfordshire an hour late, where we donned aprons, downed prosecco and gave some complex recipes a try.

First up was a Veggie Wellington. After filling our pastry parcels with deliciously sweet roasted peppers, mushrooms and onions, into the oh-so-amazing ovens they went. The cookery school uses a wall of super high tech AEG ovens, and the team gave us a proper demonstration of just how they handle everything from steam-cooked meat to delicate pastries. I’m guessing the reason my roasts end up so awful is due to the cheap rental oven our landlord plumped for. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Next was mince pies, and although I’m not a fan of anything raisin-y, I gave it a good go. Spooning mincemeat into delicate pastry cases, these were next to be cooked. Finally, we got a good look at the gorgeous joint of beef that had been simmering away in the ovens.

Lashings of gravy and bowlfuls of veggies were laid out ready for us to tuck in. And why not, after such hard work, who doesn’t deserve a treat? Leaving the other guests to head home for an early night, we said our goodbyes with the promise to book another session next year. Perhaps something more chocolate-based, next time.

As someone who thinks cooking is a chore rather than a treat, I was super hesitant at giving it a go myself. I thought I’d be hopeless, but I’m actually really proud of my creations. David enjoyed the mince pies, and we left with lots of smiles. Thinking about booking a cookery class, or giving a session as a gift to a loved one? Well, we’ve got five reasons it’s a great itea.

1. It gives you confidence

I hate cooking because, for me, it’s too big a risk. If it all goes Pete Tong, there’s nothing left for dinner aside from baked beans and a jacket potato. Cooking with experts helped me feel like actually, I can do this! And my Wellington turned out quite delicious if I do say so myself.

2. You get step-by-step live instructions

Rather than getting confused with recipe books and wondering why your steak is more chewy than juicy, the team is there to point wannabe chefs in the right direction. From step 1 to the end, someone’s available to help you out with the directions, even if you’re fairly confident in the kitchen.

3. You learn tips and tricks

We were told how to stop the pastry from sticking, how to make a decent jus, and loads of other little tips we’re trying out. It’s all in the name of fun, too, as each recipe we know we’ve made before. Speaking of which…

4. It’s really fun!

Whether you’re going solo or taking a group of friends, it’s such a fun way to spend an afternoon. The school had a really nice layout meaning we could have a chat with some of the other bloggers who attended. We compared floppy pastries and celebrated out successes too.

5. It’s perfect for seasoned pros and novices alike

Ok so a professional chef probably doesn’t need to bother with a lesson, but even for those who are super confident in the kitchen, there’s always something new to learn from the team. Plus, it means those who do know how to boil an egg can show off their skills and help the hopeless, such as me.

The state of nursing in the NHS today

So, I was on the news recently. As in, BBC News. I was giving my opinion on the Budget in which Philip – owner of private care home developer Castlemead – Hammond stated that IF talks with pay reviews went ahead and IF they bear fruit then MAYBE nurses will get a bit of a pay rise. Since then, the severely-hated-in-NHS-circles Jeremy – received £30,000 from private healthcare providers – Hunt has stated there will be changes to contracts in order to finance pay rises. And of course, in the following few days, it’s been hinted that nurses will see weekend and night enhancements scrapped in favour of a modest pay rise for all.

So, why are nurses so keen on getting a pay rise? What’s all this Scrap the Cap malarkey? Why did the junior doctors end up striking? And will nurses do the same?

Why nurses are asking for a pay rise

Agenda for Change

As a newly qualified nurse (NQN) in the NHS, I’ll be paid based on the Agenda for Change pay banding system. This means that I’ll start at the bottom of Band 5, where all NQNs start and earn £22,128, about £1,500 per month. Why so low? Well, because when I start I’ll be on a preceptorship and won’t have the skills or knowledge to manage patients without that extra guidance from other nurses. As my skills progress over the years, I’ll work my way up the ladder eventually getting to the top of the band, £28,746, or just over £1,800 per month. And there I’ll stay unless I decide to take the jump up to a more senior managerial role.

The issue for nurses is that once you’re at the top of the band, the only option is essentialy to leave your job, and apply for a role that takes you away from patients but puts your skills to use managing bays and nurses and transfers and all the other boring stuff nurses hate. Some nurses, such as myself, just don’t want that. Which means that they’re indefinitely stuck at only ever – note this, ONLY EVER – earning £28,462. There’s literally no way a Band 5 nurse can earn more. Think about that: nurses who’ve endured decades of shift work, abuse at the hands of patients, and are responsible for the lives of thousands will only ever earn £80 a day as a Band 5.

Because of the 1% pay cap.

Tories love spouting that Agenda for Change means nurses get pay rises all the time. This simply isn’t true. A nurse will start at the bottom and work to the top, being remunerated according to skill, until they cannot progress any further.

Scrap the Cap

Over the last decade, these pay bands haven’t increased in line with the cost of living, with workers in the NHS only getting a 1% upscale of wages thanks to a pay cap that was instated during the coalition government. This pay cap has remained in place despite an increase in the cost of living slash inflation, which has risen to almost 4% according to the Retail Price Index. Factor in the increasing cost of rent, bills, food, shopping and imports, and of course the impact Brexit’s had on the pound, and it’s all looking rather dire.

After the police received a 2% pay rise and prison officers 1.7%, 14 unions, including the Royal College of Nursing, demanded a 3.9% pay rise and £800 bonus for NHS staff. Considering nurses have suffered a real-time pay cut of about £6,000 thanks to the pay cap over the past seven years, savings the government have made, it’s not too much to ask.

At RCN Congress earlier this year, a motion was passed to pressurise the government into scrapping the 1% pay cap to ensure nurses remained in post and filled the tens of thousands of vacancies in the community and hospitals nationwide. If the cap wasn’t lifted then nurses would strike.

But didn’t Jeremy Hunt say the cap was scrapped?

Technically, yes. And isn’t it typical that a politician isn’t more specific? On the 9th October, Jeremy Hunt hinted the end of the pay cap thanks to pressure placed on the government following a summer of protest activity. Nurses were waiting with bated breath during the budget to see what the new pay rise would be, only to be given a pat on the back and the promise that pay will be reviewed and if stuff happens then maybe a pay rise is on the cards. No specific amount was given. Typical, and not surprising.

The RCN has somewhat celebrated this news, which has only angered nurses more – this is in no way a win or the result we were asking for. The pay cap has been lifted but without specifics, this could mean a 1.1% pay rise. Useless. Therefore, many nurses are pressuring the RCN (in particular) to ballot for strike action.

Why strike action?

Remember when the junior doctors went on strike for five days? That was after amends were made to their contracts that saw each doctor – who despite the junior in their title are all doctors under the level of consultant – worse off financially and opened up patients to unsafe staffing levels. Weekend pay was to be reduced as well as pay for part-time workers, the majority of whom are women.

It was considered the biggest walkout in the history of the NHS, and the government’s abysmal record of NHS management is only battered further by nurses en masse calling for strike action, the first time in over fifty years.

Don’t people have a calling to become a nurse? Why focus on money?

Put simply: if a nurse needs to choose between eating and being a nurse, or leaving the profession and having enough money to pay their rent, most will choose the option that doesn’t involve starvation and eviction. I know it might sound glib, but the reason nurses are leaving the NHS en masse, the reason nurses are retiring early, and the reason many nurses are leaving the profession entirely is due to the simple fact the wage even at the top of the band doesn’t befit the level of stress the role brings with it.

Think about this – a nurse looking after your gran when she’s had a fall, you after a drunken night out, your best friend when she has a baby, earns AT THE VERY MOST £80 a day as a Band 5. A nurse a few years into the role gets about £70. Is that worth being spat at? Being attacked by patients? Managing a bay of 12 patients because someone didn’t turn up for their shift and the hospital won’t get a bank nurse to cover?

No way.

Not when a private hospital offers £120 a day with a free lunch thrown in, gym membership, and private healthcare to boot.

The government hates the NHS

Working as a student nurse, it’s easy for me to see this.

The government now forces student nurses to pay for their education, with a student leaving their university course having worked 2,500 hours for the NHS over three years and a £30,000 debt to pay off at the minimum. Surprisingly, this means many would-be nurses aren’t too fussed about entering a profession that’ll see them earning a ridiculously low wage with student loans to pay off until they die.

So, point one: we have a reduction in nurses entering the profession.

Thanks to low pay, many nurses due for retirement are taking their last paycheck and leaving their posts with nary a second thought. Which means, coupled with record low student intakes, in 2020 there’s going to be a HUGE shortfall of nurses overall.

Point two: Reduction of nurses entering the profession + record numbers of experienced nurses retiring = mass deficit of nurses.

There are an estimated 40,000 vacancies in the UK, which hospitals just can’t afford to fill. And you know what’s cheaper than a Band 5 nurse? A band 4 semi-nurse. Healthcare assistants are seconded by their trusts to learn the role of a nurse, just without the medication side of things. Which, while they are excellent at what they do, is unsafe. Evidence shows a degree-educated nurse reduces the risk of patient mortality and anything else only means more deaths. We’re seeing Band 4 almost-nurses take up Band 5 posts, because of those juicy cost-saving implications.

Point three: Unsafe nursing levels are being filled on the cheap by nursing assistants who, while helpful, aren’t as qualified as a degree-educated nurse.

Brexit has seen nurses from the EU, who are trained at far, far superior levels than British nurses are in my opinion, avoid the UK when considering leaving their home countries. I mean, could you blame them? Patients refusing service from international nurses is horrifyingly happening on our wards even in this day and age, with some whispering in corners about THAT nurse being FORRIN. Intolerance is rife, and streams of highly-qualified EU nurses aren’t even bothering to renew their nursing PIN, leaving our shores for those that are a bit more tolerant.

Point four: Staff shortages thanks to low student numbers, retiring and leaving nurses, low EU applicants coupled with posts for nurses being filled by non-nurses create long waits, unsafe practice, stressed out teams and, essentially, patient deaths.

Note how nothing was said in the budget about social care? Well, they’re pretty damn important to nurses. Heard of ‘bed blocking’ where patients are waiting to go home but can’t? The term is pretty derogatory considering the reason these patients can’t go home is that it’s unsafe. Why? Perhaps they’re an elderly patient who isn’t as mobile as they were when they arrived at hospital. Now they need a nurse to visit them at home twice daily.

But wait, didn’t we just say there were record levels of nurses leaving the profession? Sorry Marge, but no one can visit you at home as your community service can’t overload any more of their nurses and care teams with new patients. Which means doctors can’t discharge Marge home. And as there are so few beds in smaller, cottage hospitals (which are usually demolished and turned into luxury flats *cough* Brentwood *cough*) there’s nothing for Marge to do but wait.

Point five: With no increases to social care provision even hinted at in the Budget, the NHS selling off cottage hospitals, no spaces in care homes, and no home visit teams, patients end up stuck at hospital while others wait for their beds to become free.

By restraining pay under the guise of ‘budget saving measures,’ the government forces nurses into unsafe working practices. We all need to pay our rent and eat. So nurses will take extra shifts at nights and weekends, when pay increases, to make sure there’s enough cash left at the end of the month. This means a tired, overstretched workforce. And when a nurse is tired, mistakes are made.

If nurses were given a 3.9% pay rise, it would solve huge issues within the profession. The same old problems with patient overload and stress of the job would still be there, of course. But it would halt the tide of nurses leaving, and hopefully attract enough students to cover their loss. It would mean nurses could worry about their patients rather than covering extra shifts to make ends meet.

The state of nursing in the NHS is dire right now. If you’re a nurse reading this, dammit get involved with your union and start planning to make a change.

If you’re a reader interested in what’s happening, the government is not working for anyone’s interests other than their own. They want to sell off contracts to their friends for them to profit from the ill health of the nation. We see this with Virgincare (think your GP practice is part of the NHS? Oh you sweet summer child…) and we see this with the lists of MPs who have shares in private healthcare companies, who are wined and dined by fatcat healthcare executives, and who are sent gifts aplenty from directors keen to get a slice of the NHS pie.

If nurses strike, you bet they’ll spin it to ensure the Daily Mail gets their readers in a tizzy about nurses affording LUXURIES like M&S meals and holidays abroad. Do your research, and remember, once the NHS is gone, it’s gone.

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THE Park Hotel Hyderabad – Exploring India

Exploring India – Hyderabad:

Scraping ice off of my car on a typical English frosty morning, my mind is taken back to sitting by a pool in yoga leggings, my toes dabbling in the water, whilst I watched the sun rise over the Hussain Sagar Lake, in Hyderabad, the fourth largest city in India.

I was a guest at THE Park Hyderabad hotel, this autumn, as part of a whistle-stop tour across India, the hotel an architecturally stunning building with a unique communal area structure and stunning displays of modern art. The view from the veranda at the centre of the building takes in the wide vista of the lake, set in the heart of Secunderabad the northern conjoined area of the city. This was a quiet moment before the mornings’ yoga class, where I and my fellow travellers joined in with local residents who use the gym and spa facilities available.

THE Park Hotel Hyderabad India Yogi On Veranda

Hyderabad lies in Andhra Pradesh, almost in the epicentre of the country, though since 2014 it has been the capital of the 29th state known as Telangana. It is an historically important city, with a Muslim heritage, and like most areas in the country, residents use four languages – Hindi, English, Urdu and the local dialect Telugu. The formation of the Quli Qutb Shah dynasty and the extension of the Golconda fort in the 15th century was the catalyst for settlement in the area and the subsequent breadth of history. The centre of Hyderabad itself was founded away from the fort, as the population grew, under strong Persian influence by Muslim dynasties, with a bridge which has stood catastrophic floods and endless power struggles, connecting the two areas. In the 16th century, it was the centre of the world’s diamond trade and a magnet for traders.

THE Park Hotel India The Elephant Door

As European influences started to affect the structure of India in the 17 and 18 hundreds, the city of Secunderabad was founded to station French troops and subsequently, British troops. The British stationed a Resident Minister at Hyderabad and their own troops at Secunderabad, but the state and Hyderabad continued to be ruled by the Nizam, the ruling family, meaning it was reasonably autonomous within the era of the Raj. The city had its own currency, mint, railways, and postal system, for instance. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any colonial architecture but it is not as dominant as in other Indian cities. There are also several palaces that have stood despite ‘assimilation’ and blatant land grab, an issue caused by the propensity of the population to resort to long legal battles, but does mean that there are more modern buildings and some interesting experimental architecture. This has become particularly apparent during the recent expansion of the city as India’s biggest IT centre – both Google and Microsoft have their Indian headquarters in Hyderabad, earning it the nickname Cyberabad.

THE Park Hotel Hyderabad India Breakfast

THE Park Hyderabad hotel building has been part of this recent expansion being completed in 2010. With 270 rooms it blends a modern, sustainable design with local craft traditions, influenced by the gemstone and textile industries fundamental to Hyderabad’s commercial success. The architecture is distinctive and has won awards with its green credentials. This project achieved the first LEED® Gold certification for a hotel in India.

THE Park Hotel India Hotel Art

The building’s three sides wrap an elevated veranda that’s accessed from the hotel lobby and first floor. This flexible outdoor area is protected from strong winds and serves as an extension of the restaurants inside but the main feature is an infinity pool. Business people looking for a pool to do lengths in might be disappointed but if you want to cool off and feel like you’re at a private resort then this is ideal, with the pool edge providing us with our yoga space and outdoor breakfast seating. In the evening this space was taken by a live band, something that occurs every Saturday night. Perforated and embossed metal screens edge the double glazing of hotel rooms helping to provide acoustic insulation from passing trains and exterior lights can be blocked out with electronically controlled blinds within the rooms.

If you want a quiet stay then ask for a room facing the lake which, despite the local railway station being directly next to the building, has the best views. From here you can see a giant Indian flag at sunrise and sense the balance between modern and ancient history – Californian style joggers around the lake edge against a backdrop of sailing boats drifting across the water, taking couples to see the 18 m high Buddhist shrine. This shrine has had a chequered history as it spent a period of time at the bottom of the lake in the 1990’s after an accident involving a barge taking it to where it now stands.

THE Park Hotel India Golconda Main

Yoga was a perfect start to our day in Hyderabad. We were whisked to the west of the city by our guide, Jonty of and the fortress of Golconda which lies about 8 km to the west of Hyderabad’s present day old city. Sitting on a formidable outcrop of granite it mixes simple but effective Islamic architectural technology with evocative craftsmanship. This technology, not only involves moving huge lumps of rock to create impenetrable walls that were round so as to stop elephants being able to break through them, but also the inclusion of an echo system to warn of invasion of the fort formed by arches of the roofs in the entrance halls.

THE Park Hotel India Golcanda Arches

In addition to this, to prevent collusion amongst the courtiers, walls in certain rooms allow sound to travel such that a whisper in one corner travels to another – a useful communication/spying system when your brother could be after your throne.

THE Park Hotel India Fort Doorway

Good shoes are required as to reach the top requires some walking and it would be possible to spend several hours here, as the outer wall measures 10 km, not to mention the numerous photo opportunities given the stunning views.

THE Park Hotel India Englishmen Abroad

With limited time we then visited the Qutb Shahi Tombs a short distance away. By the time of the Qutb Shahs, Golconda Fort had already existed for at least three centuries under the Kakatiyas and Bahmani sultanate and was famed for cutting and trading of diamonds, mined in the Krishna River, a river that flows across the centre of India.

Qutb Shahi Tombs India Shahs Tomb

There are 21 domed granite tombs, with white stucco facades and the tomb we entered had that unique echo chamber effect, found at the fort, inbuilt in the architecture – our guide paid the guardian of one of the tombs, which are still honoured with offerings, to make the call to prayer inside the dome, to demonstrate.

Seven of the eight Qutb Shahi rulers are buried here, including Mohammed Quli, founder of Hyderabad, and there are plans to make it a World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, as with many things in India, restoration is a slow process fraught with issues of ineptitude.

THE Park Hotel India Indian Colours

We were then taken to lunch at a restaurant where typical Southern Indian food was cooked, to sample a tasting menu. Food from the south of India tends to be hot and spicy, as it is believed that by eating the food and then sweating, the body’s core temperature is kept lower. We were told that this was milder tasting menu and as there was both a vegan and a vegetarian in the group our lunchtime feast included quite a selection of dishes.

THE Park Hotel India Chowmahalla

Another car journey, this time along the banks of the Musi river, and we headed into the ‘Old City’ and Chowmalla Palace. This was where the Nizams entertained their official guests and royal visitors, including English nobility, the last Nizam having been educated in England and having an amassed wealth which made him the fifth richest man in recorded history. The palace has a stunning great hall with Belgian glass chandeliers and is an ideal place to get away from the Laad Bazaar, which has encroached on some of the lands that were once part of the palace.

THE Park Hotel India Belgian Chandeliers - Hyderabad

Laad Bazaar Road is the colourful and enigmatic shopping centre of the Old City with numerous bangle and spice shops and very much loved by both locals and tourists alike. It leads to the four grand arches of the Charminar mosque, constructed in 1591.

THE Park Hotel India Laads Bazaar

Charminar literally means “four minarets”, the structure reportedly being built at the spot at which Quli Qutb Shah prayed for the end to a plague epidemic that was decimating the population. The Charminar has long been the icon of Hyderabad with towers rising to a height of 48 m above ground. The mosque itself is located inside the upper storeys.

THE Park Hotel India Four Minarets

This was an all too brief visit to the historical sites of Hyderabad, but before we left the hotel, we had to try the spa and were therefore ferried back to change and spend a snatched hour experiencing an Ayurvedic massage. A much welcome treat.

THE Park Hotel Hyderabad India At Night

The final hours of the day were spent eating on the contemporary styled veranda of THE Park Hotel, bathed in moonlight, as fireworks peppered the night sky, discussing very modern topics, having been steeped in history through the day.

Thinking of visiting – why not pin this one for later!

Hyderabad India _ Exploring India _ Heritage India _ Hyderabad Sights _ THE Park Hotel Hyderabad



Fact Box

Rates at THE Park Hotel Kolkata start from £100 per night. Based on two sharing a Deluxe Double Room on a B&B basis, excluding tax.

Rates at THE Park Hotel Hyderabad start from £63. Based on two sharing a Luxury Room on a room-only basis, excluding tax.

For further information or to book please visit

For further information or to book the Plaza Premium Lounge at Heathrow Terminals please visit

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Darjeeling Express Kingly Court, Carnaby St London

Comfort and Warmth at Darjeeling Express:

I first met Asma Khan at a Supper Club showcase event at The School of Wok.  A bubbly, charming lady, he’d brought along a whole series of Indian street food dishes for us to try. I can remember taking note and meaning to find my way to her supper club as soon as possible.  It wasn’t until a few years later though, when I met her at another event, that I got to eat a main course from her kitchen.  And, when I heard that she was opening a proper restaurant, Darjeeling Express, I was determined to get there sooner rather than later.

Life never works out the way I intend and in this case, I particularly wanted to take my God Daughter who loves Indian food and is a passionate feminist.  I knew she’d like the concept of the all-women team in the kitchen and she’d appreciate the support the restaurant gives to the Second Daughter charity.  I wasn’t aware that in India sometimes births of a second girl are mourned. Asma’s fund, based in Kurseong in Darjeeling, is to support those girls and make them feel special and valued – sending celebration packages at birth and helping to support the girls through their education.

Of course, turning up during the week before Christmas isn’t perfect timing and I was just a little concerned I wouldn’t be able to give Darjeeling Express a fair chance.  But, Asma was charming, welcoming and totally in control.  We got our requested table tucked away in a quiet corner and we also got a little complimentary plate of Tangra Chilli Garlic Prawns – an Asian fusion dish that comes from Calcutta, the only city in India which has Chinatown.

Puchkas Darjeeling Express

Then we ordered more starters – Channa Chaat and Puchkas with tamarind water.  Both delicious,  the tamarind water had a good punch and the Channa Chaat was beautifully garnished with sev, coriander and a tamarind sauce.

Chaat - Darjeeling Express

My god-daughter picked Kala Channa, a black chickpea dish cooked with ginger and chilli.  I had a taste and it was beautifully rich and comforting.Meanwhile, I enjoyed a large bowl of tender venison koftas, carefully spiced and served with a creamy tomato and green chilli gravy.

Darjeeling Express Indian Restaurant Mains

We ordered sides of saffron puleo and hydrabadi tamarind dal.  And, because I wanted some vegetables, a portion of baigan aloo (aubergine, potatoes, tomatoes and green chilli garnished with roasted crushed cumin).  It was a little more than we could eat – but utterly delicious and definitely all worth trying.

Venison - Darjeeling Express

Then, just because, a portion of halwa – which my god-daughter initially didn’t want to try, but once she did became converted to the idea of a carrot-based dessert.

Halwa Darjeeping Express

All washed down with a cup of chai.

I hadn’t intended to write a review so I’m short on notes, though long on memories.  And, I know this is somewhere I’ll go back to again and again.  It’s not fancy – and it’s not overly expensive.  But, it’s all cooked with care and served with warmth and charm.  And that for me says it all.


Darjeeling Express

Top Floor, Kingly Court, Carnaby,
London W1B 5PW
020-7287 2828

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