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RCN leader demands return of £1 bln to nurse education, says goodwill being abused

Donna Kinnair tells RCN congress money taken from nurse education must be returned, and says the profession’s goodwill is being abused

Donna Kinnair tells RCN congress money taken from nurse education must be returned, and says the profession’s goodwill is being abused


Donna Kinnair: ‘The goodwill of nursing staff is being abused,
and politicians must know it is running out.’

The government must end the desperate shortage of nurses in England by ‘returning the £1 billion it took from nursing education', the RCN general secretary will urge today.

Dame Donna Kinnair will also say in a speech at RCN congress later today that the goodwill of nurses is being ‘abused’ in the government’s failure to tackle an estimated 40,000 shortage of nurses in England.

Some 3,000 members are set to attend RCN congress in Liverpool, where Professor Kinnair will also call for UK-wide safe staffing laws.

‘The government must make people accountable in law for this situation and put back into nursing higher education the money it so catastrophically ripped out,’ she is expected to say.

‘The goodwill of nursing staff is being abused, and politicians must know it is running out.’

Human cost

In her first speech since being made permanent RCN general secretary in April, Professor Kinnair will call on ministers to consider the financial and human cost of leaving nursing jobs vacant.

She will call for safe staffing laws to be introduced across health and social care in England, after Scotland and Wales enacted such laws.

The RCN has accused the government of ‘quietly dropping’ data published on the former NHS Choices website for England that revealed the number of nurses and support staff on shift at individual hospitals.

Safety and transparency

Publication of the data had been seen as important for safety and transparency following the 2013 Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

The information has been replaced by a measure of ‘care hours’, which does not distinguish between care given by registered nurses and that by unregistered support staff, despite academic research showing mortality rates rise when the number of registered nurses on a shift drops.

Professor Kinnair will point to the new staffing law in Scotland as evidence of how such legislation can be introduced.

Accountabilty in law

Scotland is now the second country in the UK to set staffing accountability in law after Wales became the first in Europe to legislate in 2016.

Professor Kinnair will say that without a devolved government in Northern Ireland staffing shortages combined with low pay levels there represent a public safety issue. She will ask for public support ahead of a possible ballot on industrial action in Northern Ireland later this year.

‘We will not stop until people are held to account for the desperate shortages each and every one of us has witnessed,’ she is expected to say.

Crisis in nursing

‘Politicians must stop shortchanging the public. They must stop the rot and put an end to the workforce crisis in nursing.

‘Rather than only looking at the cost of educating and employing nurses, the government must think about the true cost – financial and human – of not doing it. Employers, decision makers and ministers with the power to change things should not let individual nurses take the blame for systemic failings.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: 'There are over 16,900 more nurses on our wards since 2010, with 52,000 more in training - and as part of our Long Term Plan we are improving staff retention by promoting flexibility, wellbeing and career development and helping more nurses return to practice.

'As well as providing funding to increase university training places, we will set out a full NHS People Plan later this year to ensure the health service has the staff it needs for the future.'


Read all the latest from RCN congress 2019 here

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