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Value nursing

Valuing nursing was at the centre of our 2017 general election manifesto, Nursing Counts. We want the next government to commit to our manifesto priorities.


Fair pay

We call for nurses’ and midwives’ pay to keep pace with the cost of living and for protection of terms and conditions of employment across all sectors.

Why it’s important

Pay is a critical factor in retaining and recruiting skilled healthcare staff. Nurses and midwives deserve fair pay for the work they do. Our members are exhausted and morale is low, with nursing staff under enormous strain being asked to do more with less. More nursing staff than ever before are leaving the profession, piling the pressure on people who are already overstretched. This, coupled with increasing workloads, is affecting the quality of patient care.

The 2017 decision to continue the 1% pay cap for NHS staff in England, Wales and Scotland represents another real-terms cut to pay. It means the gap between nurses’ pay and the cost of living is getting even bigger.

Nurses in Northern Ireland are the lowest paid in the UK. Because of the current absence of a Northern Ireland Executive, no pay award for 2017-18 has yet been made.

Guaranteed right to remain for EU nursing staff

We call for the right of permanent residence for European Economic Area (EEA) nationals already working in the health and care sector in the UK, and a future immigration system that ensures the UK has rapid access to staff from the EEA and beyond when it needs it.

Why it’s important

Health and care services across the UK have increasingly relied on international recruitment to care for patients due to a shortage of UK trained nurses. EEA nationals working across the health and care sector need a clear signal from the Government that they are wanted and welcome.

Whilst the UK must invest in growing its domestic nursing and midwifery workforce, this will take time. The failure to guarantee the rights of EEA nationals to remain risks soaring numbers heading for the door.

There are currently about 37,000 nurses from EEA countries on the UK Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register. After the referendum, EU nurses joining the NMC register fell to fewer than 200 per month compared to nearly 800 per month for the same period in 2015.

You can find out more about the RCN's commitment to supporting our members from other EEA countries on our Nursing Staff from the European Union pages.

Prevent downbanding and substitution

We call for an end to the practice of downbanding of registered nurses and substitution with less qualified nursing staff.

Why it’s important

We know both downbanding and substitution are being used as a way of controlling costs. Our members tell us it is now commonplace for unregistered staff to undertake tasks that should be carried out by registered nurses.

The evidence base is clear that degree-educated nurses have a positive impact on reducing mortality rates. Good patient care depends on having a well-staffed, highly qualified workforce. Without experienced staff who provide complex care, the risk to outcomes is too great.