‘No medals, badges or claps – just fair pay’, nurses tell PM

The RCN has accused the government of ‘hollow’ clapping and letting down nursing staff.

Matt Bodell
8 October 2020
Nurse gazing

The union is rejecting pin badges and medals offered by ministers.

The head of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has accused the government of ‘hollow’ clapping and letting down nursing staff after the first phase of the pandemic.


Dame Donna Kinnair, the RCN’s Chief Executive and General Secretary, is calling on the government to reward the work of nursing staff with a fair and immediate pay rise as she rejects suggestions of pin badges and medals offered by ministers.

In her first major speech since the pandemic was declared, Dame Donna will tell hundreds of frontline nursing staff that Boris Johnson has not yet entered into the discussions on NHS pay sought by health unions since July.

Hollow clapping.

Dame Donna Kinnair will say: “The public’s support for nursing staff this year has been incredible. They displayed it in their millions every Thursday evening for months. It was heartening for our members and all key workers to know they had the public’s support and appreciation. Many told me they felt buoyed by it.

“The clapping by politicians was fine too until it sounded all too hollow. Back in the summer, we asked Boris Johnson to start talking to us about a fair pay rise. 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.


“Some of his colleagues tried to tell us we’d just had a rise. One even said there were other priorities.

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

“If the government is setting out its spending priorities next month, then will it will hear directly from us why it should start with an immediate commitment to a 12.5 per cent pay increase for NHS nursing staff.”

A dreadful year.

She continues; “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.”

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