On Tuesday, I had the great pleasure of celebrating with you at the annual RCN Nursing Awards ceremony. You represent the very best of our profession and I felt great pride hearing about the work of all the nominees. It was a delight to announce the RCN Nurse of the Year, Nicola Bailey, who transformed her sexual health service to make early medical abortions accessible for women and girls in Northern Ireland.
Congratulations are also due to the Nursing Support Worker award winner Nicola Treharne, who developed a blueprint for perinatal care and Mairead Ryan, Nursing Student award winner, for her work in developing initiatives to promote positive mental health.
Rohit Sagoo, founder of British Sikh Nurses and children’s nurse lecturer, won the Leadership category for his work in building connections between health care services and the Sikh community. Learning disability nurse Rebecca Crossley received her award in recognition of her work in setting up a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for people with learning disabilities and autism or severe and enduring mental health conditions.
We also remembered our colleague Paul Murray, who died after a cardiac arrest in February. Paul won the Patient’s Choice category after receiving a record number of nominations from people he cared for as well as the wider community.
Earlier this week I met with the Secretary of State for Health and Care, Sajid Javid, to once again raise the concerns our members have regarding staffing for safe and effective care. I took the opportunity to reiterate our concerns over sickness absence rates in the profession, and I described the intense pressure nursing staff remain under as you continue to work through this pandemic.
Our own recent analysis shows that health care staff are now more at risk of mental health problems, chest and respiratory problems and migraines than before the pandemic. Anxiety, stress, or depression remain the most common reasons for staff sickness. I’d like to remind you that our Winter Wellbeing resources are in place to help you prioritise your own physical and mental health during the coming months.
I also had a separate meeting with Jeremy Hunt, Chair of the Health and Care Select Committee, on Wednesday 13 October. I raised our ongoing concerns and the action urgently needed to address workforce issues within the upcoming Health and Care Bill.
It felt particularly prescient speaking with him the day after his Committee reported on the UK’s response to COVID-19. The report highlighted much we already knew, particularly that the long-term failure to invest in the nursing workforce meant health and care services were chronically under resourced to deal with the pressures of the pandemic. I reminded the former Health Secretary that it will take a long time for health and care to recover, especially as services remain under pressure and there is a difficult winter ahead. The government must reflect on mistakes made to plan properly for the future.
Finally, on the NHS pay front, Scotland this week launched an indicative ballot and dates will be confirmed imminently for the indicative ballot in England. RCN Wales has this week lodged a pay dispute with the Welsh Government over the 3% pay award there. Colleagues in Northern Ireland are still waiting for the Executive to announce a pay award, and as soon as that happens members will be consulted on it.