Bernell Bussue has been Regional Director at RCN London since 2005. Bernell has a clinical background in cardio-thoracic and intensive care nursing and spent five years working in the Middle East earlier in his career, returning to the UK private sector and later to the NHS where he held senior positions managing surgery and orthopaedic units, before time as an Operations Manager in Child & Adolescent Mental Health.
The new year has started with a flurry of activity.
Danielle Tiplady’s petition calling for an end to the 1% pay cap gathered over 100,000 signatures. This triggered a debate in Parliament. As a result, on Monday 30 January a core of dedicated MPs, led by Catherine McKinnell, spoke eloquently in support of nursing staff. We won the vote, but it is non-binding.
RCN members lobbied MPs beforehand. They shared stories of their experiences, and urged MPs to support the Scrap the Cap campaign.
Meanwhile, the NHS is in the grip of Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) fever. STPs detail how £20bn of savings will be made by 2021.
While they lay out some admirable ideas – joining up care services and delivering it in more appropriate settings - there is scant information about what will happen in practice. Fundamentally, if STPs are to work, they require a clear funding commitment from Government that as of yet has not been seen.
We are clear at RCN London that STPs must not be driven primarily by the need to save money and will oppose plans, such as nurse redundancies, that compromise patients’ access to safe and dignified care. In London, we do know there are a number of hospitals under threat. Currently, the most vulnerable is Ealing hospital. Charing Cross and King George are slated to be down-graded. Many more services are in line for “re-structuring” and “efficiency savings”, commonly referred to as “cuts”.
This comes alongside publication of two worrying sets of data.
Latest figures show applications to nursing dropped 23%, which we can probably attribute to the scrapping of the bursary from September 2017. A decision we opposed then and now.
At the same time, interest in nursing in the UK among qualified EU staff dropped by 90%. Anecdotal evidence suggests this is due to lack of certainty over working rights in light of Brexit.
London’s NHS relies heavily on nursing staff from the EU, particularly Spain, Portugal and Ireland – in total 13% of its workforce. Overseas health care staff are vital to the very functioning of the NHS. At RCN London we want the Government to quickly commit to safeguarding the Right to Remain of EU nationals working in our health service.
Looking ahead, on 4 March the RCN will be supporting the ‘It’s Our NHS’ demonstration in London. The march brings together the public, health care staff, trade unions and health campaign groups and is an important opportunity for us to maintain the momentum in our campaign to ‘Scrap the Cap’.
RCN London will be present and is supporting members to attend, so please do join us.
Take advantage of any public consultation events organised by your STP partnership and any of the agencies involved. Ask questions about the plans, the timetable and the implications of both success and failure for your local area.
Get your Local Council involved
Go along to any public meetings hosted by your Local Council. Many are not in favour of STPs because of the extra burden of delivering more social care for less money. Find out what their position is and ask questions about the implications for your local area.
Contact your MP
Find out what your MP’s position is on the STP proposals in your area. Provide them with information about the potential impact. Find out what they are planning to do about it.
Raise awareness about STPs among colleagues and friends
There are still large parts of the NHS workforce and public who are not aware of what is going on. A recent survey by the Health Service Journal found six out of seven people had not heard of STPs. Find opportunities to talk to others about STPs. Encourage them to take action and hold local decision-makers to account.
Bernell Bussue, SEN, RMN, RGN, DMS, MBA