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Theresa May accused of 'contempt' for nursing with RCN congress no-show

College writes 'disappointed' letter to prime minister in response.

Theresa May has been accused of showing 'contempt' for nurses by failing to attend RCN congress.


RCN general secretary Janet Davies has sent a written response to the prime minister.
Picture: John Houlihan

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron both accepted invitations to speak at congress in Liverpool on Monday, but the Conservatives did not take up the offer.

A letter from the prime minister's office – read out by RCN general secretary Janet Davies on Tuesday morning – ‘regretted it was not possible’ for Ms May to attend and added ‘please do accept her best wishes for a successful event’.

An emergency motion, which called on the college to 'deplore the contempt shown in the letter from the prime minister for the RCN and the nursing family', and asked Ms Davies to 'reply in the strongest possible terms', was overwhelmingly passed.

Strong reply

A response was read out by Ms Davies to shouts of 'yes' from the audience.

'Our members are disappointed and saddened, and feel disrespected by the prime minister,' the RCN letter reads.

‘Nurses were keen to hear from the prime minister personally about her plans to alleviate the difficult, and sometimes impossible situation, in which they are working.'

Strike action

The letter comes as the RCN warned that unless the next government scraps the 1% cap on pay, it will hold a ballot on industrial action later this year, threatening the first ever strikes by members.

An emergency resolution in favour of a summer of planned protest activity, followed by an industrial action ballot, was passed at congress on Sunday. 

It followed an online poll of 52,000 RCN members, with nine out of 10 supporting action short of a strike, while almost four out of five backed strikes.

'Fantastic job'

The letter from Ms May's office added: ‘Britain’s nurses do a fantastic job and deserve our thanks and support.

‘They ensure that patients in our NHS get world-class care, and so we have made it a priority to recruit thousands more since we’ve been in government to help those already working hard.

‘The Conservative Party’s manifesto will be published shortly and will set out how we will go on supporting the NHS in the next parliament.’

The letter from the RCN in full

‘Thank you for your response to my two letters of 21st April and 14th May.

‘I shared your letter with congress this morning, who were extremely dissatisfied in your response on behalf of the prime minister.

'Our members are disappointed and saddened, and feel disrespected by the Prime Minister.

‘Nurses were keen to hear from the prime minister personally about her plans to alleviate the difficult, and sometimes impossible situation, in which they are working.

‘Whilst we are pleased the prime minister states that she recognises the value of nursing, this does not reassure us, and feels like empty platitudes when we see no real action being taken to improve the lives of both patients and nurses.

‘This week, our members have spoken passionately about their own personal experiences, working both with insufficient resources to do their job safely and effectively, and insufficient resources to live their lives well, pay their bills and care for their families, or even travel to work to do the job they love so much.

‘Our members have taken the unprecedented step of voting for a summer of planned protest. Many never thought it would come to this and are now looking for guarantees that this government will listen and act on the voice of nurses who keep our NHS going in the most difficult times.

‘I enclose a copy of our manifesto, which I urge the prime minister, should the Conservative Party win the next general election, to enforce in full.’

 


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