Why this general election matters to every nurse in the UK

Nurses in the NHS and social care know the impact politicians’ promises (and whether they keep them) have on lives and on the health of the nation

Illustration of nurses’ general election voting decisions show ballot papers flying down into a ballot box marked ‘NHS’
Picture: iStock

So, the general election has finally been called and we’re now in a period of electioneering (or should that be ear-bashing) in which we’ll hear about nothing else until at least mid-July.

Politics can feel exhausting especially when bold promises will be made of a new dawn for the NHS and care sector, which share the dubious honour of always being key election battlegrounds.

Upheaval and disquiet have been the hallmark of the years since the last Westminster election

That said, this election does offer a real opportunity for you to have your say.

Since the last general election, in 2019, the nursing profession has experienced arguably one of the most significant periods of upheaval most of us have ever seen. As we cast our votes in December of that year, we didn’t know the world was on the brink of a pandemic, with clusters of what would come to be named COVID-19 already emerging in China. No one, arguably, could have foreseen the toll this would take on nursing globally and in the UK, not least the loss of many nursing colleagues and friends.

We have also seen unprecedented strikes by RCN and UNISON members over NHS pay and conditions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Nurses in Scotland also voted to take industrial action but talks with ministers there averted this. Offers for this year are still pending in every part of the UK.

Meanwhile, waiting times have soared, while health spending has risen less quickly than planned, according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Weigh the evidence and your own experience before you vote

The NHS is the number-one issue for voters, according to research by pollsters Ipsos for the King’s Fund think tank. This isn’t surprising considering most of the population will be well aware of its challenges.

During the coming month, it is for each of us who has a vote to listen to what the different political parties are offering for nursing, and health and social care, and to reflect on those promises based on experience and evidence. That way we can vote to achieve an outcome that offers the best hope for the future.