Continuing to live and work alongside COVID-19

Dame Donna Kinnair 25 Sep 2020 Chief Executive and General Secretary

Dame Donna Kinnair reflects on the week’s political developments on the nursing workforce

This week has been an important one as we work in this COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve had new advice from the UK governments in response to the growing numbers of cases and I know this will have an impact on all of us and how we live our lives.

Our Director of Nursing, Susan Masters, explored the impact of long-term COVID-19 symptoms on our members in her blog this week and I called for urgent action to ensure nursing staff have access to the resources we need to protect ourselves and our patients as cases of COVID-19 rise.

I joined an IPPR hosted webinar this week too, as part of the Labour Party Conference fringe programme, to discuss how we protect the NHS and care workforce during and post this pandemic. I shared with the other panel members and participants our member concerns about mental health and wellbeing on our workforce. We know the pressure on nursing staff is just unsustainable.

And that pressure is caused not only by the pandemic but structural problems in our health and care system – staffing shortages made worse by poor pay and conditions. I’ll be making those points at a Conservative Party Conference fringe event on 4 October too.

This is a view that was made to the UK Government by the Public Accounts Committee this week as well. Their report echoed what we have been calling for – a proper long-term plan for the nursing workforce in England and national plan to include issues of pay to increase recruitment and retention.

We know from our recent survey that 36% of members who responded were thinking of leaving the profession this year, with more than half citing pay as a factor.

The Chief Nursing Officer in England announced plans to boost nursing numbers this winter through increased international recruitment. While we welcome any plans to increase nurse numbers to support the workforce through ongoing staffing shortages and this pandemic, we know the government needs to aim for ‘oversupply’ for our domestic nursing workforce after years of underinvestment. Student nurses should not have to pay fees and their maintenance grant must genuinely reflect the expense of studying.

It is clear that England deserves, like Scotland and Wales, a law which sets out responsibilities and accountability for workforce planning and supply throughout the health and care system. And we need Fair Pay For Nursing which recognises the skill and contribution of nursing staff in meeting increasingly complex needs of the population, which also supports the recruitment and retention of staff in health and care services.

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Dame Donna Kinnair

Dame Donna Kinnair

Chief Executive & General Secretary

Prior to her appointment as Acting Chief Executive & General Secretary, Dame Donna was Director of Nursing, Policy and Practice and worked with UK-wide RCN staff to drive and implement RCN professional nursing, policy and practice strategy.

Before joining the RCN, Donna held various roles, including Clinical Director of Emergency Medicine at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust.
Donna advised the PM’s Commission on the future of Nursing and Midwifery in 2010 and served as nurse/child health assessor to the Victoria Climbié Inquiry.

Page last updated - 13/05/2021