We are also very lucky to have so many RCN representatives and members who join in with our campaigns.
Our previous campaigns have shown what we can do if we work together to highlight factors which put both staff and patients at risk. This work has continued through 2018, including the recent #fundourfuture campaign on student finances.
We know that many of our students struggle financially during their studies and we are asking for the Government to put at least £1 billion back into nursing higher education. Five of our student members travelled to Parliament for a lobby of MPs on this vital issue and did a fantastic job speaking to politicians about the struggles they face. It is a testament to our student members that we had so many volunteers wanting to take on this important task and could have easily filled the room with RCN Eastern students alone. If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to support the campaign and find out more by visiting the website.
We have also been doing our best to highlight the scandalous situation where many of our overseas nurses will have to pay hundreds of pounds annually for each member of their family to access NHS services – the very services they are helping prop up.
The issue of the Immigration Health Surcharge was raised at RCN Congress by our member Evaline Omondi, from Bedfordshire branch, who spoke passionately about how the charge results in families being split up due to the financial burden of these additional fees, which are paid on top of the usual tax and National Insurance payments these nurses also face.
We have now seen Parliament vote to double the fee from £200 to £400 – a morally bankrupt decision which does nothing to support recruitment and retention of non-EEA nationals working in health services or show the extent to which their contribution is valued. With Brexit impacting on our European workforce, the Government cannot afford to alienate another valuable group of staff. We are calling on Home Secretary Sajid Javid MP to waive the Immigration Health Surcharge for non-EEA nursing staff. You can help too by emailing your MP.
I know staffing levels and safe staffing are affecting all of you, our members. It is the reason most of you contact for us for advice and support. Next year will bring the start of the RCN’s Safe Staffing Campaign and we look forward to working with all of our Eastern region members to challenge the Government for change.
And as Trainee Nurse Associates in the region qualify on to the NMC register in January, we are also looking forward to hearing about the breadth of their roles and their feedback on being the starters of new routes into the nursing and care workforce.
Thank you for everything you do for health services and patients, and for your support in all our work. We hope you will join us in speaking out in 2019 on the issues that matter to you.