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Leading and celebrating the nursing profession

Pat Cullen 6 May 2022 Chief Executive and General Secretary

Pat Cullen, Interim General Secretary and Chief Executive updates members on work happening across the UK to improve the working lives of nursing staff and encourages members to get involved in Glove Awareness Week and Nurses’ Day.

Earlier this week, myself and RCN President Dr Denise Chaffer were invited to meet with HRH The Prince of Wales at Clarence House, alongside with other royal colleges, to discuss how we can provide support for nursing staff seeking asylum in the UK. Nursing staff from Ukraine must be welcomed in the UK and supported to join our workforce – they bring valuable experience, skills and expertise. Health and social care services must do all they can to utilise these staff - especially to help fill the thousands of nursing vacancies across health and social care.  

RCN Council met last week and a number of key issues were discussed – one of which was how we, as an organisation, can offer humanitarian support for Ukraine and they will shortly be announcing financial assistance as an initial act of support. Our International Committee, led by our President, is working on a new framework to set out how the RCN responds to humanitarian crises across the world. 

Council also confirmed they would like me to stay as General Secretary and Chief Executive for a further 12 months – until end-2023. After 40 years in membership it has been a privilege to lead this organisation and ensure its place as the voice of the nursing profession. With the extra time in role, I will drive forward the work for improved pay and safe staffing for members everywhere. 

Yesterday, the country went to the polls in a range of local government and national elections. In Northern Ireland, we have been promoting our election manifesto ahead of the Northern Ireland Assembly election - demanding safe staffing legislation, a workforce plan and fair pay among other issues facing our members. In England, Scotland and Wales, a number of local council elections were held. Although it will be a few days before we see results, these elections will impact on our members and us as individuals - from local planning decisions to social care provision to transport - the decisions taken by those elected today will affect us all. 

This week, we’ve been encouraging members to be glove aware and consider your own personal glove use and how, by pledging to make at least one change, nursing staff can play a key role in making health care more sustainable. Yesterday was World Hand Hygiene Day and it was another opportunity during Glove Awareness Week to consider the impact frequent handwashing can have on our skin – work related contact dermatitis is a significant health and safety concern for nursing staff. Read more on our website and find out how you can pledge to make at least one change to reduce unnecessary glove use. 

It is now less than a week to go until Nurses’ Day. Next Thursday, we’ll be asking you to share your #BestOfNursing stories across social media - it might be about colleague or an example of care you provided, or care provided to yourself or a loved one. Nurses’ Day is your opportunity to share that story and say thank you. Look out for lots more on our website and across social media on the day. 

Our campaign for fair pay continues across the UK. In Scotland, we continue to call on the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care to commit to a timetable for negotiations on NHS pay. The Scottish government told the NHS pay review body last autumn it planned direct negotiations with the joint health trade unions - but six months later, the Scottish government hasn’t told us when negotiations will begin.  In England, we await the NHS PRB report and UK Government pay award announcement – which is already overdue given the pay award will have to be backdated to 1 April. The announcement in England will have implications for NHS pay announcements in Wales and Northern Ireland too, though it is always ministers in each country that have the final say on pay. 

Don’t forget to nominate your colleagues working in Wales for our RCN Wales Nurse of the Year awards and if you haven’t already, please sign our For the Full Team petition to extend nurse staffing legislation in Wales – open until 12 May.

And finally, I am pleased that a report into nursing and midwifery retention was published last week by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland following the recent retention survey – the RCN in Northern Ireland contributed to this extensively. The RCN is committed to improving the conditions our members face at work– in all countries of the UK – and lobbying governments to improve pay and staffing levels to support improved recruitment and retention in our profession. 
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 - 06/05/2022