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Shaping solutions for nursing with governments across the UK

Pat Cullen 18 Feb 2022 Chief Executive and General Secretary

Pat Cullen, Interim General Secretary and Chief Executive, explains how the RCN continues to influence across the UK to provide solutions for nursing.

Nothing pleases me more than when our members really make their voice heard. That is undoubtedly the case in the result of our latest pay ballot. We announced the results from Northern Ireland this week. Of those eligible to take part in the consultation, 52% turned out to vote with 92% of those who voted saying they think the pay award is unacceptable. We have written to the Health Minister, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Health and the leaders of all of the main political parties in Northern Ireland to share these important ballot results. Elected members on the RCN Northern Ireland Board will carefully consider the results and decide on next steps and members will be the first to know when further decisions are made.  

The RCN’s role as the voice of nursing is unique, and as your General Secretary and Chief Executive I raise the issues facing our profession - and the RCN’s solutions - at every opportunity in my meetings with government ministers and other decision makers. 

This week has seen lots of news on pensions. Firstly, the UK Government announced the extension of NHS pension benefits for retired workers in England and Wales. Our members in Scotland had already received this same commitment from their Health Secretary Humza Yousaf confirming an extension of NHS pension benefits until the end of October 2022. As the RCN, we’ve spoken to politicians a lot about this on behalf of members in recent months and this is really important to those affected. A consultation in Northern Ireland is ongoing.

The changes mean that retired and partially retired staff, who have returned to nursing during the pandemic or increased their working commitments, will continue to receive their pension benefits. This is a significant shift and politicians have listened to RCN members here. 

Secondly, the UK government announced the outcome of its consultation on changes to the NHS Pension Scheme in England and Wales. The changes include the introduction of new pension contribution rates, which affect how much staff pay into the scheme each month. In response, we called on the UK Government to clearly communicate the impact of the changes to nursing staff - increases in pension contributions is something our members can ill afford as the cost of living soars and ministers must act on that. In Scotland, we’re asking members working in the NHS to give us their views on changes to the pensions scheme being proposed by the Scottish Government. We will continue to engage with the governments on this issue to make sure our members’ concerns are heard.

Staying with Scotland, our members continue to shape the Scottish Government’s proposals for a National Care Service. Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland Interim Director, met Kevin Stewart MSP (SNP), Minister for Wellbeing and Social Care, this week to discuss aspects of the proposals. 

If you haven’t already, please sign the petition as part of our #FortheFullTeam campaign calling to extending the Nurse Staffing Levels legislation in Wales. No matter where in the UK you live, you can sign and support nursing colleagues around the UK. 

Finally, the NHS Race and Health Observatory report on ethnic health inequalities was published this week and found that inequalities in access to, experiences of, and outcomes in healthcare are longstanding problems in the NHS, and are rooted in experiences of structural, institutional and interpersonal racism. Successive governments have avoided tackling the issues of systemic racism and structural inequalities in health and care for far too long and this avoidance has worsened outcomes for the health care workforce and for the communities we serve. We will continue to demand concrete action from UK governments to address these inequalities, including proper investment in public health services.  

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 - 11/04/2022