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‘No medals, badges or claps this time – just pay nursing staff fairly'

8 Oct 2020

Dame Donna Kinnair delivers powerful message to government in first major speech to RCN members since global pandemic declared.

RCN CEO Dame Donna Kinnair

The RCN’s Chief Executive & General Secretary will use her appearance at a virtual conference of hundreds of nursing staff to demand the government values the profession and rewards it with a fair and immediate pay rise.

Speaking to delegates at the College’s online event for workplace representatives, she’ll accuse politicians of “hollow” clapping and letting down nursing staff after the first phase of the pandemic.

“The clapping by politicians was fine until it sounded all too hollow,” she’ll say. “Back in the summer, we asked Boris Johnson to start talking to us about a fair pay rise coming out of the pandemic. And do you know what he said? Absolutely nothing. Not even the courtesy of a reply, from the prime minister, to 14 health unions asking him to bring forward pay discussions.

“Before they get any ideas, I have something simple to say to Boris Johnson about this time round. We don’t want claps, or medals or pin badges – this time, just pay us fairly for the tough job we do.”

Dame Donna’s speech comes on the same day the RCN releases its formal submission to the government’s anticipated Comprehensive Spending Review next month. The document sets out the moral, political and economic case for a 12.5% pay rise for NHS nursing staff.

It also outlines what effective nurse staffing levels do for patient outcomes. And the dangers when they fall too low. It says we must have, in law, accountability for provision of the nursing workforce – not just in some countries of the UK, but all – with a plan based on true population need.

It calls for students across the UK to be financially supported to study nursing – abolishing university tuition fees in England and commissioning additional places. 

The conference, which brings together the RCN’s three types of workplace representatives, will consider how they can engage members in the College’s pay campaign and build public support for an early and significant pay award for nursing.

It will also consider the range of factors affecting the mental health and wellbeing of nursing staff and interventions in the workplace that make a positive difference. Delegates will explore what reps have learnt through supporting members who were redeployed during the first wave of COVID-19 and how to create kinder workplaces. 

Concluding her speech, Dame Donna will say: “The idea that nursing is a vocation – and that it’s women’s work – is so damaging and disrespectful. It allows our wages to be suppressed and our working conditions to be downgraded. It undermines our professional identity. It disrespects our fundamental contribution to socio-economic progress.

“Gendered notions of nursing fail to match the reality of a complex profession defined by technical, emotional and cognitive skills of the highest level. We are a safety critical profession. But ultimately, this is about political decision-makers looking at what we already do and choosing to value it fairly.

“In this dreadful year, we are shattering those perceptions day after day. Confronting people with the realities and complexities of modern nursing.”


Page last updated - 28/06/2021