Opinion

Make your vote count, for your patients' sake

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Every nurse should read the RCN general election manifesto. It is succinct, down to earth, and will undoubtedly resonate with and inspire all those who read it.

The document sets out three priorities that nurses should insist their parliamentary candidate sign up to:

  • Improve patient care through safe staffing levels, access to training and environments where staff concerns are listened to.
  • Value nursing by giving nursing staff fair pay, putting a stop to downbanding and focusing on the future of nursing.
  • Invest in health and care by increasing community resources and ensuring the workforce is planned around patient need. And no more cuts to nursing.

Social media is full of stories from nurses experiencing underfunding, cuts to services and inadequate staffing levels. These nurses understand the power they possess to make politicians take notice of them, and know the public will support them if they speak out and make a stand.

Lamentably, there are too few of these nurses, and their numbers are not enough to make a dent in the complacency of politicians who are confident of a win on May 8. Unless every nurse in the UK makes a physical effort to put a cross in a box on the day of the general election, the wounded body of the NHS will soon be in its death throes. Nurses need to remember everything that has happened in the past five years to their jobs, services, reputations and their status.

Those who do not vote on May 7 will be letting down those who do. They will be failing their colleagues and their community, as well as decent, hard-working candidates who are committed to their constituents. Silence and inaction may well crown an unworthy winner. At present, there are more than 70 MPs who have majorities of less than 1,800. It is imperative that nurses turn the heat on in these constituencies, and truly make ‘nursing count'. Pundits are anticipating that no political party will have a clear mandate to govern. This makes the nursing vote all the more powerful.

But nurses have to put in some work if they are to emerge victorious on May 8. They should consider this to be on a par with unpaid extra work, and see it as part of patient care as well as safeguarding their own future. The other option is to regret bitterly such a missed opportunity.

You can easily find out online how your MP had been serving their constituents. It is all there as a matter of public record, even expenses claims.

It is equally straightforward to obtain the list of parliamentary candidates for a particular seat and read their manifestos. Most have made themselves accessible on social media, and invariably respond promptly to queries. But nurses have to read between the lines and be persistent until they are satisfied the policies being sold to them are credible.

As a final thought, consider this: it is your money the government is spending. Do you really want no say in this?

There are now only 23 days left until the general election, so make your voice heard and make your vote count. Your patients are depending on you.

Zeba ArifAbout the author

Zeba Arif is chair of the RCN forensic nursing forum and president of the All Pakistan Nurses Association-UK. You can find her on Twitter: @ZebaArif