Last Sunday marked two years since COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organisation. Ever since, I know you’ve worked in extremely challenging circumstances whatever your individual role.
You should not have to carry this heavy responsibility by endlessly going above and beyond in order to cope with these unrelenting demands. Your employer has a duty of care to you and colleagues - to support your wellbeing and manage services appropriately and it is a top priority for me too. Members consistently tell us that the pressure is unsustainable and it risks driving too many of you to other careers. Time To Talk Day this week was an opportunity to highlight to all members the support available to you from the RCN.
Reminder: if you’re in Northern Ireland, with an Agenda for Change contract, please remember to find the email and vote before Thursday 10th February on the latest pay award to HSC members.
This week, the Health Secretary in England confirmed he is dropping the mandatory vaccination policy for NHS and social care. I encourage every professional to get vaccinated and take all other precautions but forcing people was never the correct way to go about it. At my recent meeting with Savid Javid I repeated what I’d said in writing on behalf of nursing: thousands of staff losing their jobs in the middle of a staffing crisis is not in the interests of patient safety.
While this change saved job losses in the NHS, it comes too late for social care colleagues. Following the announcement, I met with Edward Argar, the minister with responsibility for workforce. I raised with him the huge challenges members are facing to deliver safe care given current workforce shortages – caused not only by COVID-19 but by years of chronic underinvestment in nursing - and the recent announcement on mandatory vaccinations. The UK Government must heed our solutions for tackling the workforce shortage, including the priorities we want addressed in the Health and Care Bill for England.
Finally, along with a number of other Royal Colleges, we lit our central London headquarters red on Tuesday to proudly show solidarity with health workers in Myanmar. We remember those who have lost their lives since the military coup a year ago. Myanmar has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a health worker, with nursing staff risking their lives trying to provide care and keep their patients safe. This was an important moment and we will continue to stand in solidarity, alongside other nursing organisations internationally, to support our nursing colleagues around the world.