Letters

The results of health secretary Alan Milburn's recent exercise to see what people want in the NHS are clear enough: shorter waiting lists, more nurses on the wards, and the health service working with the private sector to improve the patient's lot.

Those of us in nursing agencies would not disagree with any of these findings. To be private sector, commercial organisations does not mean we haven't got an important role to play in supporting the NHS - even if less than half of 1 per cent of the NHS budget gets spent in the process.

The best agencies work hard to find hospitals temporary nurses when they cannot do it themselves, and without our efforts to keep wards staffed waiting lists would risk being completely out of control.

Politicians and others might prefer to write us out of the script, and the nursing press has recently been carrying comment which questions the ethics of the agency sector. The fact is, however, that we offer nurses the kind of flexibility and recognition that they don't get elsewhere, we shore up the continuing human resources crisis in the NHS, and we are offering precisely what it turns out that Mr Milburn's survey results want.

Robert Murgatroyd Chief executive Thornbury Nursing Services Bristol

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