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Andy Burnham commits to helping nursing students in RCN congress speech

The cap on nurse pay must be lifted and nurse bursaries reintroduced, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said on the opening day of RCN congress in Liverpool.

The cap on nurse pay must be lifted and nurse bursaries reintroduced, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said on the opening day of RCN congress in Liverpool


Andy Burnham at RCN congress. Picture: ©2017 John Houlihan

The former Labour secretary of health and MP told delegates that he planned for his region to lead the way by offering to pay towards tuition fees for University of Manchester graduates who commit to working in a Manchester NHS trust for five years.

Mr Burnham told an annecdote about a nurse he once spoke to at Bristol Royal Infirmary, during a pay dispute, who accepted a new 39-hour contract to supposedly replace her 37-hour contract - but she had already been working 49 hours.

'Incredible workforce'

'It brings home for me about how management, politicians - and I'm talking of politicians of all parties here - completely misunderstand the value of the workforce that they are responsible for,' he said.

'They just don't know, many of them, just how incredible the nurse workforce is.'

'The NHS runs on the goodwill of nursing staff and other healthcare professionals,' Mr Burnham continued, receiving applause.

'If you don't understand people are staying late after work out of sheer dedication to their patients, sheer compasssion for fellow human beings, if you don't understand that and if you jeapordise that goodwill that holds the NHS together, then it spells real trouble, as far as I am concerned, for the future of the NHS becauser it can't run without it, and I think we've seen that goodwill being squandered in recent times.'

Foodbanks

Mr Burnham then turned to a recent interview between BBC presenter Andrew Marr and Conservative Party leader Theresa May, where the question of nurses using foodbanks was raised.

Ms May had said it was a complex issue, with people using foodbanks for many reasons.

'It's not complex Theresa, it's simple. It's the result of - not a pay freeze - but pay cuts for seven years,' said Mr Burnham receiving thunderous applause and cheers.

'It's what happens when you cut people's pay year on year, it's what happens when you don't truly value the workforce that we have.'

Mr Burnham then called on pay caps to be removed, for a recognition that nursing degrees were intensive and students could not balance part-time jobs to meet costs, and announced his plans to assist graduates with fees in Manchester.

He also called for the right to remain for European Union healthcare professionals.

Mr Burnham's speech followed the RCN Awards and RCN Foundation Awards on the first evening of congress.

The event in Liverpool continues until Wednesday 17 May.

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