Over 20 hospitals in the UK declared a state of emergency last week. Some A&E departments have had to close their doors for extended periods leaving patients waiting in ambulances outside and on trolleys in corridors inside, sometimes for many hours. The British Red Cross has called this a humanitarian crisis, and there are plenty of tales to back this up; of squalor and indignity, operations being cancelled and even a birth centre closing to give up beds for non-birth related medical patients.
Meanwhile, in Northeim Germany, Somerset singer-songwriter Reg Meuross took a step outside the recording studio onto the snowy street to check his messages. The one that stood out immediately was from a friend who is a nurse back home in the UK, about to start her hospital shift. “A ‘black alert’ had just been announced,” Reg says, “and she described herself huddling in her coat in a cold and drafty hospital corridor, steeling herself for the challenges ahead by plugging in her headphones and listening to music. She added that although she felt unwell herself there was no way she could not go into work, so in she went.”
Nursing staff, the highly dedicated and skilled backbone of our healthcare system, are under intense pressure in this crisis. A backbone can only be stretched so far before it collapses. As one nurse puts it, “the stress of working in these conditions is really taking its toll. The NHS has long survived on the goodwill of its staff, coming in on their days off to cover shortages, and even coming in when they are not well themselves, but those staff are now getting tired and ill. This is unsustainable.”
Reg, who had described the piecemeal selling off of our health system back in 2015 in his acclaimed song England Green & England Grey, “the NHS our England’s jewel, is bartered by Westminster’s fool”, could not get his friend’s message out of his head. “I felt how heartbreaking it is for these exceptional people to not be able to provide anything even close to their usual level of care due to understaffing and lack of beds. I was particularly touched that she was listening to music to gather strength and I went back into the studio and wrote this song in support of what she, and all nurses are doing. Stockfisch Records was kind enough to record it on the spot.”
“Nurse – Angel In A Blue Dress”
She grabs a cup of coffee
And she drops the kids at school
She pulls into the car park
But every place is full
So she blows an hour’s wages
In the public parking lot
Just another little piece of her
The government has got
The drivers sit in silence
Clutching mugs of tea
‘What’s up?’, she says. ‘No beds’, they say
It’s a state of emergency
So she pulls her coat around her
She puts her headphones in
There’s only room for music
Underneath this skin
She’s the queen of soul
The Diva of Distress
Compassion makes her whole
She’s an angel in a blue blue dress
Her brand new friend is dying
Last night a new friend died
If it wasn’t for the music
She knows she would’ve cried
She knows about the sickness
The loneliness & pain
And she knows what doesn’t break her
Will soon come round again
She’s the queen of soul
The Diva of Distress
Compassion makes her whole
She’s an angel in a blue blue dress
Written and played by Reg Meuross January 2017.
Thanks to Gunter Pauler, Stockfisch Records for audio recording.
Listen and download here:
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In the sixth richest country of the world, morale amongst nursing staff is at a dangerously low ebb, and people are feeling overstretched and undervalued. A critical job has become exhausting and over demanding. A nurse working in A&E sums it up: “All we ask for is for a system that is sufficiently funded and provided for, which doesn’t let us down, so that patients are not let down. I am tired of seeing colleagues cry.”
The nurse who sent the original message that inspired the song has messaged since: “The song has brought tears to my eyes, because it is gentle and kind and true, on a day when I was tired of being tough and tired and strong. Mostly I felt relief that somebody was listening. There is an army of angels right now needing a voice like this. When there seems to be chaos coming from those we look to lead us, that is exactly the time when real musicians and artists need to speak out. We really need the support of the public. Thank you, Reg”.
The song, ‘Nurse – Angel In A Blue Dress’ by Reg Meuross is available for sharing and free download. Reg says “What can a song do? I hope at the very least it will offer some acknowledgement to these people who are doing one of the most vital jobs there is, under extreme pressure and in near impossible conditions. I also want to draw attention to the crisis in the NHS. Please share the song, please lobby your MP, please let’s do anything we can to stop the gradual privatisation of a service that has been the envy of the world in terms of health care for so long.”