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Dear next prime minister: RCN members’ open letter to Conservative leadership candidates

Nurse activists’ bid to quiz Tory hopefuls on safe staffing, nurses’ pay, and student bursary

Nurse activists’ bid to quiz Tory hopefuls on safe staffing, nurses’ pay, and the student bursary


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Nursing activists have called on MPs vying to become the next prime minister to spell out how they would tackle the nurse workforce crisis.

A group of RCN activists and members have written to candidates in the Conservative leadership contest, calling on them to outline their positions on issues including safe staffing, pay, and the prolonged pay disparity experienced by NHS nurses in Northern Ireland.

    Candidates will face a second round of MPs' votes at 6pm today, with any candidate failing to secure at least 33 votes cut from the line-up. The remaining hopefuls will appear on a BBC television debate on Tuesday at 8pm.

    ‘Nurses have felt the brunt of cuts’

    One of the letter's signatories, London RCN activist Danielle Tiplady, told Nursing Standard why it was important each candidate outlines how they would help improve conditions for nurses.

    ‘Nursing has felt the brunt of the past nine years of cuts and detrimental policy changes leaving us with 40,000 vacancies,’ she said. 'What is bad for nurses is bad for patients, and so the whole of society.’

    Ms Tiplady urged whoever became prime minister to enact change for nurses, and their patients.

    ‘The next prime minister has to take action to rectify the issues in health and social care and nursing to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities,’ she said.

    At the time of writing, the six candidates are environment secretary Michael Gove, foreign secretary and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, home secretary Sajid Javid, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and international development secretary Rory Stewart.

    RCN activists’ open letter to the candidates

    On behalf of nursing staff across the UK we should be grateful if each of you would provide your answers to the following questions.

    Please note that your answers, and indeed your lack of answers will be shared with the 435,000 members of the RCN, our families, friends and professional partners.

    1. Scotland and Wales have introduced legislation to ensure that there will be safe nursing staff levels in hospital wards and community settings for both physical and mental health care.
    If you become prime minister, what will you do to ensure that safe staffing legislation is enacted across the entire UK?

    2. There are over 40,000 vacancies for nursing staff across the UK.
    If you become prime minister, what will you do to ensure that these vacancies are filled with appropriately registered nursing staff?

    3. Despite the 2018 pay award nursing pay has fallen significantly in real terms during your party’s time in government.
    If you become prime minister, what will you do to ensure that all nursing staff receive a pay award that will at least reverse this significant cut in their salary since 2010?

    4. Nursing staff in Northern Ireland have been adversely affected by the lack of a devolved government.
    If you become prime minister, what will you do to resolve the current impasse and ensure that they receive the pay award that they deserve?

    5. With the end of the nursing bursary in England there has been a significant reduction in the number of people entering under-graduate courses.
    If you become prime minister will you restore the bursary, and if not, what will you do to ensure that there is an effective evidence based policy for recruiting the next generation of nurses?

    6. This government has highlighted the importance of public health in preventing ill health. Yet in England there are further cuts in funding and it is proposed to move the funding from the NHS to local authority business rates.
    Will you reverse these policies?

    7. If you become prime minister will you guarantee that in any future trade deal with the United States, the NHS including our current system of pharmaceutical purchases will not be up for negotiation.

    Yours faithfully,

    Rod Thomson RCN fellow and past deputy president, fellow of the Faculty of Public Health; Geoff Earl RCN council member for Scotland; Danielle Tiplady RCN activist and registered nurse; Zeba Arif RCN activist and forensic nursing forum former chair; Tom Bolger RCN former assistant general secretary; Michelle Russell RCN activist; Anthony Johnson RCN activist and health visitor; Paul Jebb RCN member and registered nurse; Denise Aine RCN activist and registered nurse; Maureen Dolan RCN activist; Billy Nichols RCN activist, safety representative, and steward; Dave Dawes RCN council member for North West; Stuart Mckenzie RCN activist


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