The health and care service in the UK can no longer survive on the goodwill of nursing staff, who work above and beyond to ensure their patients are safe in very challenging environments.
That’s the message from RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair in letters to party leaders across the UK*.
Launching the College’s manifesto of policy demands to safeguard nursing and patients, Dame Donna – a registered nurse herself – writes: “As the largest part of the health workforce, our contribution as nursing professionals to health and life outcomes is unique.
“The expertise our membership brings is crucial to meeting the needs and complexities of patient care, and central to the delivery of your aspirations for the future of the health and care service.”
The letter lists the five policy actions the RCN is calling for across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales from whichever party forms the next government. These are:
- addressing nursing workforce shortages, with it written in law in each UK country who is responsible for workforce planning to ensure safe and effective care
- investing in health and care services across the UK in line with rising population needs
- investing in nursing education and professional development, with students across the UK having access to adequate financial support, and nurses having sufficient funding for continuing professional development
- building an immigration system that supports nursing, with continued ability to recruit overseas staff, and a commitment to ethical recruitment
- improving working conditions and pay, with meaningful pay rises for all nursing staff providing publicly funded services.
Dame Donna’s letter also challenges all party leaders to drop the Immigration Health Surcharge, which currently requires non-EU migrants to the UK to pay a fee of £400 a year for themselves, and a further £400 for each dependant living with them, to access NHS services – whether they use them or not. The RCN argues that it is unfair to require nurses from overseas who are working so hard to support the NHS to pay this charge.
The letter demands: “This fee must be waived completely. It is an unacceptable price to pay – especially for those who are working in our health and care services, and who already pay national insurance and income taxes, as well as directly contributing to our health and care services through their work.”
Dame Donna concludes: “The NHS and social care is rightly at the heart of this election. On behalf of our 450,000 members across the UK, we call on you and your party to help deliver the changes we need for our members and our patients. It is time for our voice at the frontline to be meaningfully acted upon.”
*The letter has been sent to the leaders of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Brexit parties. The RCN’s country directors in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have written similar letters to political parties in those nations.