The UK Government must grow our existing workforce

Dame Donna Kinnair 2 Oct 2020 Chief Executive and General Secretary

In this week’s blog, Dame Donna Kinnair says, whether in front of a microphone or face to face with a politician, she will always seek to speak truth to power, on behalf of all members.

I returned to BBC Broadcasting House for a special interview with Radio 4’s Paddy O’Connell last week.  
I explained how our member survey shows that many members are considering leaving nursing, concerned about their pay and the pressures they continue to face. I also talked about the need for urgent investment in health services ahead of what could prove to be a difficult winter.  
My hope is that one day, I will be asked to do an interview to express satisfaction on behalf of members –to say the Government has listened to us and will support our profession, in terms of safe staffing and fair pay. 
But until that day, and as long as this pandemic continues, my message is clear: we went into the pandemic with too few nursing staff, and the situation is getting worse. 
More reports published in the last week support what our members on the ground are saying.  
We told the Health and Social Care Committee that a lack of testing could become a barrier to safe and effective care this winter. Their recent report couldn’t come at a more crucial time. Unless there is a rapid expansion of testing, health and care staff in all settings must be prioritised with easy-to-access tests. 
This weekend, I’ll be taking that message to the Conservative Party conference (just as I did at the Labour party conference a few weeks ago) where I’m taking part in a panel discussion about how this Government can meaningfully repair the workforce shortage.  
The report from the Migration Advisory Committee published this week proffered some ways to do just that, recommending that senior care workers and nursing assistants be added to the shortage occupation list for international workers entering the UK. 
But short term solutions like this alone won’t end the nursing workforce crisis, and in my session at Conservative Party Conference, I will remind the Government that it must grow  our existing workforce and domestic routes into nursing. 
Whether in front of a microphone or face to face with a politician – I will always seek to speak truth to power, on behalf of all members. This is what it means to be the voice of nursing. 
Finally, I couldn’t end this week’s update without mentioning Black History Month.  
I am proud to work for an organisation that marks the achievements of BAME nursing staff year-round – but I’m also glad that we have this month to place a special emphasis on this contribution.  
Events will take place across the UK. RCN East Midlands and North West will host Power, Voice and Influence, a celebration of the continued contribution of BAME nursing staff across health and social care. You can join me for a discussion hosted by RCN London on what I wish I knew back when I was student nurse, chaired by journalist Henry Bonsu.  
If you can’t make any of these events, you can still check out our exciting new podcast series, Nursing Whilst Black, in which nurses, healthcare support workers and students from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to share their thoughts, reflections and insights. It is of course telling that a Black History Month is still needed, and speaks to the ongoing systemic inequalities experience by BAME people in the UK. 
Find out more about some of the online Black History Events we are organising this year and how you can take part here.  
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 - 02/10/2020