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Opinion

It isn’t a 6.5% rise, it’s three years of pay cuts

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The crisis in the NHS is deepening every day.

Nurses are disappearing. People are needlessly dying at home. Hospitals are being pushed beyond their bed occupancy limits. Thousands of surgeries are being cancelled. Ambulances are queuing for hours. Patients sleep in corridors in pain. Mental health patients are left waiting for days & waiting lists for help are in the years.

Just last year alone, 33,000 demoralised nurses – the backbone of the NHS – disappeared. That’s a 20% increase compared to the 2012 rate. Patient safety is now highly jeopardised.

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All the Conservatives can respond with is pure disdain.

It isn’t a 6.5% pay rise – it’s 3 years worth of pay cuts! either matching inflation or below it. We will see at lunchtime (hopefully no more postponements brought on by lack of democracy and transparency) whether or not things have changed. Either way Nurses, this is our time to fight for what is best for not only us and our working conditions but the patients and wider society as a whole. You’ve all done wonderfully so far showing your pure outrage at their attacks on us! Think about it, if they took the annual leave theft off the agenda just because of some rumblings on the internet by just a fraction of the Nursing Workforce, imagine what we can do when we move as one mass organised collective.

It just goes to show how strong we really are and what a weak position the DUP propped up Tories are actually in. They retreat at the first sign of dissent, well they haven’t seen anything yet! This is why the naysayers and jaded Nurses who say ‘All Nurses are apathetic and won’t change things’ are completely wrong and aren’t analysing the situation as a whole. Nurses may have been milder in the past but a mood is growing. That anger and resentment won’t stop at hollow words and even more hollow pay offers, now that it is beginning to roll.

It’s time to put that outrage into action. Join the RCN, call for emergency meetings, go to your branches, put in motions for changes you want to see, organise your workplaces, Reject the Tory pay cuts and help transform society for the better. We have a responsibility on each of our shoulders as one of the biggest workforces in the UK. And I say to the union leaders and others who insult the membership and say they’re not political enough: You never really know how far you can go until you’ve tried.

Ballot us for strike action, don’t stand in our way as we attempt to better our future and the future of society.

Opinion

‘Student nurses graduate with £54k of debt, shouldn’t we pay them a wage instead?’

The Government claims students are “supernumerary” and “not contracted to provide nursing care”.

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student nurses walking

Student nurses are the unseen workforce and vital to patient care.

While I am pleased for the thousands of students who will soon be starting their journey to become a registered nurse, it comes with a stark reminder.

In November 2015, ministers announced the NHS Student Bursary and tuition fee payment would be cut in a plan to increase the number of available student places.

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Suffice to say, this hasn’t worked.

Instead, we have seen a consistent decline in the number of student nurses qualifying. Official figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show an overall decline in applications of 8% since 2015.

There is no debate that nurses need to be degree-level educated – but are student loans the best way to fill an ever-widing gap in our workforce?

The unseen workforce.

Student nurses are the unseen workforce and are sometimes vital to the delivery of safe, compassionate, person-centered care.

Completing over two-thousand hours of hand-on, direct clinical practice over three years – is it fair to ask them to accumulate up to £54,582 (plus 6.3% annual interest) of debt?

With a starting salary of £24,214, this is a debt the majority of nurses will never pay off.

The Government claims that because student nurses are “supernumerary” and “not contracted to provide nursing care” they need to be treated like all other higher education students.

While is it true that the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) mandates that student nurses are considered ‘supernumerary’ – how realistic is this expectation? We hear stories of student nurses, trainee nursing associates and healthcare support workers being used to fill nurse staffing gaps on an almost daily basis.

A self-perpetuating cycle.

With an estimated 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in the NHS alone, health and social care services in England are stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle.

Chronic under-investment in services has led to an increased demand on staff and subsequently affected recruitment and retention rates. Universities then fail to recruit enough nurses to meet the current demand and so the cycle continues.

The Royal College of Nursing has called on the Government to invest at least £1b per year into nursing education and come up with a long-term plan after its plan to increase numbers has failed to work.

Matching the proposed apprentice wage while student nurses are on placement would go some way towards alleviating the financial burden the government has placed on student nurses.

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Opinion

A fresh start?

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RCN Congress

I’m excited and I’m nervous. I qualified as a nurse just 15 months ago. I left a career in IT of “quite a few years” – I decided I needed a fresh start.

Now I’m sat on a train heading to my first ever RCN Congress. I’m a voting delegate and will be honoured to carry that responsibility for my branch.

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I’m also excited to finally be meeting people that I’ve solely (or mostly) only ever connected with online.

Finally, I’m looking forward to the various debates and resolutions. Listening to the speakers will further inform my views and I might even share a thought or two myself – fortunately speaking in public does not generally worry me (I’ll be the one with the ukulele).

A brief glance back to this time last year when certain “irregularities” were noticed by some members around the pay deal and communications regarding it.

The train of events that followed uncovered a number of poor practices regarding transparency and accountability and our current council were elected to address these.

I also mentioned I am nervous.

Recently, it has become clear that further “irregularities” have occurred – and questions will be asked.

Tomorrow morning is the Royal College of Nursing’s Annual General Meeting – an opportunity for members to ask questions. An opportunity for the council to demonstrate its commitment to openness, transparency, and accountability. An opportunity for a fresh start.

I genuinely hope the answers to the questions I raise are clear and dispel the concerns many of us have.

And if they don’t? Well, that’s why I’m nervous.

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