I have a vision for our RCN.
My name is Jeremy Benton and I am a working nurse. Every day I talk to other working nurses – by which I mean all members of the nursing family. I’m standing for Council because I don’t think our RCN any longer represents working nurses and we don’t have a voice. I will change that.
I have been the South East member lead for the Association of Nursing Students, a student steward, a workplace steward, staff side chair of my trust, chair of my local branch and currently I am the South East member lead for the Staffing for Safe and Effective Care campaign, in which capacity I have visited branches across the region, including Guernsey. Many of you have met me. I have worked as a member of the senior management team of an International NGO providing medical aid to Syria where I held management, leadership and budget holder roles in a project to set up an emergency cross-border aid programme.
I am proud to be one of the 1017 nurses who signed the petition forcing the 2018 Emergency General Meeting giving us the long overdue opportunity to reform our RCN.
I submit that these accomplishments qualify me to represent my colleagues as the Council member for the South East region of our RCN.
So what do I believe?
I believe that nursing and the NHS have increasingly become political footballs kicked about by politicians of all parties, none of whom look beyond their next election.
I believe that to protect the interests of our members and our NHS we must make these same politicians recognise that by ignoring us, they risk their own election prospects.
So what do I want to accomplish?
Despite ten years to prepare, we were woefully unready for the fiasco of the last pay settlement which left many members actually worse off. With negotiations for the next settlement approaching, we can not afford to repeat the same mistakes.
I want our RCN to start the process by asking us as members what outcome WE want from the settlement.
I want the Trade Union Committee – the members we elected to represent us – to lead and govern the process.
I want our negotiators to have actual clinical experience.
I want to increase the numbers of workplace representatives and the staff to support them, so that we are kept fully informed and that THIS time we understand what we are being asked to vote on.
I want safe staffing linked to pay. I want the Secretary of State for Health to become legally accountable for staffing in England. I want £1bn in new funding and an undertaking for safe staffing legislation within the term of the next parliament.
Industrial action must remain an option.
Meaningful pay and safe staffing will help with recruitment but the situation for our student nurses is unsustainable. I fully support the Fund our Future campaign and I want the abolition of student fees and the restoration of maintenance grants. I want our students to receive more help with placement costs and more comprehensive psychological support.
Recruiting more students won’t help if we don’t have the teachers to teach them. I want our RCN to work with other unions – in particular the University and College Union - to call on employers to review and improve the poor pay of nurse educators which has led to a shortage of lecturers.
Accountability and Transparency
I want our RCN to do much more to become accountable and transparent. Some progress has been made but I want to see the mandatory live streaming of ALL meetings of Council, boards and committees and the mandatory publication of draft minutes of every meeting within two weeks.
There has been very little progress in implementing the emergency resolution that we as members voted for at Congress mandating an immediate, independent and comprehensive review of governance throughout our RCN. I want this to become an immediate priority.
Under our last General Secretary, the key role of communications was downgraded to a function of human resources and the position of Director of Communications was abolished, thereby silencing our voice at the very time when we needed it most. I want the re-instatement of the position of Director of Communications to the Senior Management Team of our RCN and the restoration of our voice.
There has been an erosion of the autonomy of members in favour of centralised control. The tail has been wagging the dog and I intend to reverse this trend. I want to return control of branch and forum funds to members.
I see this hustings as an excellent opportunity to take questions and talk about issues I have discussed with many of my colleagues at work and after branch meetings around the region. There is much more on my website and I’m happy to answer questions – contact details are on the RCN Council Election page. Contact me.
So what is my vision?
My vision is that our RCN becomes, once again, a powerful, member-led voice and advocate for nurses and our health service, protecting our members and our patients.
I have a vision for our RCN. If you share that vision, vote for me.