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RCN Council January update to members

RCN Council 7 Jan 2022 RCN President Eastern

RCN Council members share their updates from the past month and detail how they are supporting members through their work. Vice-Chair of RCN Council, Mel Kerr, introduces this month’s update to members.

Happy New Year to you all. I hope that you had an opportunity to rest and recuperate with family, friends and loved ones during the holiday period. I know you continue to work through exceedingly challenging times for all within health care – I hope that 2022 offers better times ahead.

As your newly elected Vice Chair of Council, I felt it was important for your elected representatives on Council to communicate openly with our membership, offering insight into what it is that we all do. Not just for our Royal College of Nursing, but also within our professional roles and in our personal time. Please do feedback to either myself or your Council representative if you want to know more about anything in this update.

I’ll start us off with what I have been up to recently (as your Council member for East Midlands):

The last month has been incredibly busy, working extra shifts on the bank across many wards within my hospital - trying to fill the gaps and shortages we all feel and see currently. We have also seen an increase in staff sickness rates, some of which is COVID related, and it has never been so important to me to prioritise my health and wellbeing. To do this, I have been to a couple of events in Nottingham with my fiancé (masked and vaccinated) to let my hair down, to try and regain a sense of normality.

Council meetings have been packed with many different topics including 2022 plans, Congress plans, the ongoing Governance reviews, and much more. All have held thorough and broad discussions which is exciting moving into a new year. On Monday 3 January, I chaired the first Council meeting of the year to discuss the ongoing staffing concerns that are particularly rife in NHS England and across health and social care currently, and we endeavour to support our members to the best of our ability through this challenging time.

Carol Popplestone, Chair of Council (Yorkshire and the Humber) shares her update:

It has been a very busy month at work and with RCN duties. I was elected in December as Chair of Council for a two-year term and I have been working alongside my colleagues on RCN Council and Pat Cullen over the festive period making sure we are actively supporting members during this time, including writing to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. In my working life, I am a clinical nurse specialist in a hospital and I have been reaching out and talking to my colleagues, listening to their concerns and thanking them for all their continued hard work and support. 2022 will be a challenging year for all who work in the NHS and care sector but I am confident that together we will get through the months ahead. I’d like to wish all our members a happy and healthy new year and to say thank you for all that you do.

Here is Michael Appleby (Northern) giving us a run down on his activities:

Welcome to my first monthly briefing as your Council member on my Council and representative activities. I have attended the monthly Council meeting on 17h December along with a briefing session on 9 December. I also attended the Northern Pay Board Committee, discussing the next steps within our campaign. In my role as Staff Side Chair within my trust, I have attended several meetings in partnership with the trust and other unions. These include monthly meetings with our DoN, Partnership meetings with our HR colleagues and several panels representing the RCN which I sit on.

I have supported members on sickness reviews and at HR meetings, as well as several consultations. Like a lot of reps, I am continuing to learn how to use the new RCN CMS (Case Management System) system.

Tracey Budding (RCN Deputy President) has been busy:

The last month has been busy with RCN activity including private and special Council meetings to discuss ongoing issues, our monthly Council meeting (open and closed sessions), KPMG Governance Review meeting, discussions with Bruce Carr QC as part of his ongoing review and RCN Awards meetings. We also held a successful RCN President Holiday Carols event which was well attended and that all enjoyed ahead of the festive period. Furthermore, I have been working as a frontline nurse, helping in clinical areas that are particularly struggling with staffing shortages.

Dr Denise Chaffer (RCN President) reflects on the holiday period:
In my role at NHS Resolution, my colleagues and I have been working over last few weeks to try to reduce additional pressures from our organisation on the frontline during this exceedingly difficult time, and offering direct clinical support where possible from our safety and learning teams and supporting the vaccination programme. I have been working closely with the RCN Professional Nursing Committee, Council and staff who have been meeting over the bank holidays discussing what further support we can offer to members. Personally, it has been a time of mixed emotions for me - sad at times, reflecting on the very recent death of a close family member, but also joy in celebrating the first Christmas with my new granddaughter.

I am so appreciative of all the nurses and midwives involved at both ends of the spectrum of care and the RCN members who go the extra mile every single day. I do hope you managed to have some time off with your own friends and families too. Let us all hope that this year will be one that will finally, at some stage, bring an end to these exceptionally tough times and a full recognition of the true value that nursing brings.

Geoff Earl (Scotland) gives his perspective:

Starting 2022, all areas of nursing are feeling the effects of nursing shortages with many areas struggling to maintain adequate safe staffing levels. RCN Scotland is demanding that the Health & Care Staffing Scotland 2019 law finally gets the legislative teeth required to ensure that Health Boards and Care Home providers deliver the protection required by both staff and patients. 

In Scotland the Scottish Government went further than any other country for our NHS pay award, but the offer of 4% is a long way short of addressing the issue of a decade of falling pay. RCN Scotland remains in dispute with the Scottish Government and will carry our current campaign into the next round of pay talks, insisting that the issue of pay and the need for a restorative award is addressed as a matter of urgency. Finally, it is important that we have a life outside of nursing. I would encourage all colleagues to protect their physical and mental health by ensuring that we make time to spend with our families and loved ones, and to also engage in social activities away from nursing.  

Richard Jones MBE shares his update (Wales):

This winter saw the launch of our #ForTheFullTeam campaign, with an event attended by RCN members and politicians from across Wales. There, I spoke about the extraordinary dedication of the nursing workforce despite 1,719 registered nurse vacancies in NHS Wales alone. Hard statistics and vivid RCN member case studies are in the works: watch the campaign website, where you can also sign the petition. I also gave comments to the nursing press on the RCN Wales advent calendar, which you can still see on social media! I know all RCN members are under tremendous pressure as they work hard to keep us safe and well throughout 2022. Thank you, and please look after yourselves as best you can.

Jes Johnselvan (Eastern) tells us what it was like after testing positive over the festive period:

I work as a Team Leader in Main Theatres at Southend Hospital, Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust. I am also one of the staff governors and Staff Side Lead for Southend. The challenges faced by nursing is enormous in the current climate. Nursing staff are on their knees - with a shortage of staff, anxiety related to redeployment to unknown areas and are exhausted. Nurses are working even harder to make ends meet. I continuously raise this with my Trust and would urge all members to speak up when things are not up to standard.

My family and I tested positive for COVID-19 during the holiday period and have been in isolation. It was a rough time for us all, and some of us are still recovering. Now more so than ever, it highlights to me the importance of taking time for our own health and wellbeing.

We also have an update from Rod Thomson (West Midlands):

Like many of my RCN colleagues, December has been dominated by COVID-19. In my RCN role that has included working with the College’s Professional Lead for Infection Prevention and Control updating our guidance for members regarding COVID and the Omicron variant. COVID-19 dominates my working roles, whether that is as a volunteer nurse in my local hospice or as a Consultant in Public Health. During December I have been helping care homes and schools prevent or deal with outbreaks.

In addition, I have been organising vaccination clinics for the 400,000 people in my borough. The highlight, however, is staffing those clinics and giving my community some protection against this virus. All of us need some down time away from the stresses of work. For me, it is playing and umpiring hockey. Being outside, even in the cold and the rain, is a great way to forget work pressures.

Geoffrey Walker (South West) gives us an update:
This is a difficult time for all in every sector of heath care as the new variety of COVID-19 hits the public and health care staff alike. The pressure this is placing on health care services is immense. Here in the South West, like all regions and countries in the UK, staff struggle daily to meet health care demands. I work in an acute Trust and see the pressures this brings every day with sickness, staffing levels and capacity issues. Staff do an excellent job, but they are tired from almost now two years of this intense and relentless pressure and high level of vacancies compound the issue.

Across our region it as a daily struggle to meet care needs, not forgetting the large numbers of RCN members who work in the independent health and care sectors and have the same concerns and issues. I hear daily of staff crying, feeling overwhelmed and on their knees with the level of work. Stress is also a major factor, and we need to be aware of those staff leaving the profession and struggling with mental health issues. The RCN is here to support you - please contact your local reps if you need support or visit the RCN website. Words are not enough; we need action, and governments need to listen and act.

BJ Waltho (Chair of Congress) giving us an insight into her Christmas:

Christmas and New Year were very different for me this year - it was the first time I haven't been at work or on call. I didn't forget those who had to work and I checked in on my clinical site team on Christmas Day. They were short-staffed due to COVID-19 but like all nurses and nursing support workers, were doing their best in challenging circumstances. As always, I have been busy on social media raising the issue of the shortage of lateral flow testing kits and the lack of appointments for COVID-19 booster jabs locally. I love walking – it is good for my physical and mental health, and this year I walked a total of 2435 miles. It was well over my target of 2200 so I am chuffed.

And finally, Shaun Williams (Student Council Member) lets us know what he has been up to this last month:

The latter part of 2021 and beginning of 2022 have been a challenging but nevertheless productive for me. I have recently begun transitioning from student nurse to qualified and newly registered nurse, taking up my first substantive post as a forensic learning disability nurse. Alongside this, I have chaired several RCN student webinars; helped with preparations for the incoming RCN Student Committee; and although unsuccessful, stood in the internal RCN Council Officer elections. I am really looking forward to getting fully involved and being an active part of my new local RCN branch this year.

To find out more about the work of RCN Council, visit our website.

Find out more about previous RCN Council meetings.


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RCN Council provides leadership and direction for the organisation. Find out more about the work of RCN Council on our website. 

Page last updated - 07/06/2022