On the day of the rally, 6 September 2017, I woke at 2.45am! My alarm was set for 4.00am, but the excitement of the day ahead and the fear of sleeping in ensured no further shut-eye was possible. I could not wait to meet other RCN members travelling to London and share their excitement over the event.
The journey from Belfast International Airport went smoothly and we arrived early in Parliament Square. I felt nervous waiting for other groups to arrive. What if no-one came? I really wanted this to be a success. I need not have worried. As 12.30pm approached, colleagues in their Scrap the Cap t-shirts flooded in from Scotland, England and Wales to join the Northern Ireland delegation. I felt as if I knew them all; each member of the nursing family was suddenly recognisable and familiar to me. The sense of belonging to something very special could not be denied. I met so many interesting people and was encouraged to learn that, although we all worked in different areas, our concerns were similar. Many expressed firstly their desire to ensure safe patient care, followed by their concerns for the nursing profession and how under-valued it has become. The common reason we were all there was in no doubt, however - each and every one of us wanting to Scrap the Cap.
The speakers were inspiring. I enjoyed the energy, noise and sea of colour produced as chants signalled our agreement with the sentiments expressed. Looking around, I could not help but feel a little sad that financial struggles and feeling under-valued had brought the caring profession to this point. My sadness conflicted with a sense of pride at just being there at this moment in nursing history. I was impressed with the strength of feeling expressed in such a dignified manner by true professionals. The brief chats and photo opportunities with MPs were encouraging. I hoped that they understood fully the importance of the campaign. The afternoon’s events passed swiftly and all too soon it was time to disperse and return to our various countries to do the job we love.
I returned to work full of enthusiasm (despite the exhaustion) and was delighted that my colleagues had followed the event closely on social media and via news reports. They were now anxious to hear a first-hand account of how things had gone in London from someone who had been there. Scrap the Cap was certainly the main topic of conversation in the tea room that day. My challenge is to keep it that way!