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Nurses take up seats in the House of Commons

Four nurses will be heading to parliament when MPs resume their seats in the House of Commons following the surprise general election result that saw the Conservatives form a minority government.

The nursing voice in parliament has increased following the election of two more nurses to the House of Commons.


Theatre nurse Eleanor Smith has strengthened the nursing voice in parliament.
 Picture: iStock

Theatre nurse Eleanor Smith was elected as the new Wolverhampton South Labour MP along with fellow Labour MP and nurse Karen Lee, who represents Lincoln. They join three other nurses re-elected in last week's general election.

Majority increase

Ms Smith, the first black president of the trade union Unison in 2011, increased the majority from 801 to 2,185 after replacing Labour's Rob Marris.

The new MP has previously identified workplace inequality and fighting against austerity as key priorities.

Speaking after her win, she said: 'I’m delighted I’ll be able to use my experience as a theatre nurse to raise health service issues in parliament that effect staff and patients.

'There’s so much that needs changing, ending the public sector pay cap, addressing safe staffing levels in hospitals and of course the chronic underfunding of the NHS.'

Fellow newly-elected Labour MP Ms Lee is also a Unison, and Unite, member and has been a nurse since 2003. She wants to continue nursing alongside side her parliamentary responsibilities.

Ms Lee has committed to donating any nurse wages earned through bank work to three charities including one supporting foodbanks.

Seats retained

Elsewhere, three Conservative former nurses retained their seats.

Cancer nurse Maria Caulfield returned with an increased majority of 5,508.

Guildford MP Anne Milton saw her majority reduced, but still received 54.6% of the vote, while nurse and I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here star Nadine Dorries also saw a small decline in her majority in Mid Bedfordshire.

One of the key features of the general election was the high turnout of young voters, which the London South Bank University president of the nursing society has hailed as 'amazing'.

Daniel Gooding said: 'The Conservatives will be open to significant pressures as they don’t have a majority. With the summer of protest planned by the RCN, it will be interesting to see how that effects what the government do.

Influential voice

‘As students, this has shown us that if we use our voices we can influence things.’

In the wake of the election results, the RCN has warned that the new government has 'one last chance' to scrap its 1% pay cap as it prepares to launch a summer of protests on the issue, with a ballot for industrial action.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: 'The cap, after years of pay freezes, means that nursing staff are 14% and at least £3,000 a year, worse off than they were in 2010.

'This summer, the government has one last chance to scrap the cap.'

New calls

The election result has prompted fresh calls for nurses to engage with politics.

Queen's University Belfast lecturer Siobhan McCullough called for political education to be contained in the nursing degree.

Ms McCullough said nurses needed to be aware of media bias in order to make an informed decision and questioned whether nurses have realised the power of their collective voice.

She added: 'It is interesting that three nurses are Conservative MPs. There is something to be explored.'

The winning MPs were not the only nurses to stand.

Unsuccessful bids for seats came from Green candidate Rebecca Thackray in Stamford and Grantham and Liberal Democrat Michael Bukola in Camberwell and Peckham.


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