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Campaigning for nursing on the issues that matter to members

Pat Cullen 17 Mar 2022 Chief Executive and General Secretary

RCN Interim General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen reflects on the impact of the rising price of fuel, the cost of living crisis and the importance of our Last Shift survey.

Many of you have been in touch over the past few weeks to tell me about the significant challenges you are facing at the moment such as concerns around mileage rates and general price rises. That’s why we’ve been pressing governments on these issues on behalf of the nursing profession.

We know that the ongoing cost-of-living crisis is a real source of concern for many of our members. Like everyone else, the nursing workforce is seeing the cost of food rising week-on-week, and now eye-watering price rises at the petrol pump.

And for those members who rely on their cars to deliver care in our communities, the cost of fuel is seriously jeopardising their ability to carry out their work. That’s why we’re calling for an urgent review of NHS mileage rates and for additional payments to be made, to ensure that our members are not out-of-pocket when they travel to deliver the care their patients need.

Of course, inflation – driven by rising fuel and food costs - is central to our demand for fair pay for our members. Our submission to the NHS Pay Review Body demands that members on Agenda for Change are awarded at least 5% above the current rate of inflation. Ours is a highly trained, safety-critical profession and our members deserve to be able to carry out their work without worrying if they can afford to stay in the profession or how they are going to pay their basic household bills.

This was made very clear to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in England Sajid Javid when members met with him last week. Giving members the chance to speak directly to senior Ministers is vital and I am always incredibly proud and inspired when I hear them advocate for our profession. They told Mr Javid - in no uncertain terms - that patient safety is being jeopardised by a lack of investment in the nursing workforce. There will soon be high level political engagement in the three other parts of the UK too, so watch this space for more details.

It is crucial that we are able to demonstrate clearly to those in power what our members already know; that understaffing is impacting the nursing workforce’s ability to deliver safe and effective care. That’s why I would like to remind all members – whether you work in the NHS or for other health and social care employers – to complete our Last Shift Survey.  It takes 10 minutes to complete and the information is vital to influence policy.

Our work for safe staffing continues across the whole of the UK. In Wales we are seeking a parliamentary debate to address the vacant nursing posts in the country. Members from any part of the country can support their colleagues in Wales by adding their name to our petition.

The Scottish government published its long-awaited National Workforce Strategy for Health and Social Care last week. While this is a step in the right direction and commits to growing the nursing workforce, the lack of detail on how this will be achieved and steps to retain existing experienced staff is disappointing.

The RCN Northern Ireland Emergency Nurse Network met last week in response to the continued and increasing crisis in emergency departments across Northern Ireland. The RCN has written to a number of bodies to escalate members’ concerns, and the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Health discussed the issue at its meeting last Thursday.

The personal stories and experiences of members captured through our bespoke online tool have played an important part in our safe staffing work in both Northern Ireland and Scotland. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to share their stories.

Finally, this week we celebrated Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist Day. Chair of RCN Council and Macmillan Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist, Carol Popplestone reflected on the vital contribution these expert staff make to the lives of people living with cancer. We’ve also launched a brand new Cancer Pathway and Education Framework for all UK nursing staff to support improvements in the delivery of high-quality care to people affected by cancer.

As you can see, it’s been another busy week of campaigning across all four of the countries of the UK. Whether it’s lobbying governments for safe staffing, raising the profile of nursing specialisms or taking action to address the cost of living crisis, my promise to you is that we will never stop listening to your concerns and campaigning alongside you to ensure that the voice of nursing is heard loud and clear.

Pat Cullen

Pat Cullen

General Secretary and Chief Executive

Pat has worked at the RCN since 2016. Before being appointed General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat was Director of RCN Northern Ireland from May 2019 to April 2021.

Page last updated - 23/06/2022