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Unison staff were “threatened with disciplinary action if they opposed the NHS pay deal”

An astounding 84% of Unison members voted to accept the pay deal which the union sold as a 6.5% increase over three years.

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Unison staff were warned about speaking out about the deal.

A leaked email received exclusively by NursingNotes alleges that Unison staff were threatened and even suspended for speaking out against the controversial NHS pay deal.

In August, an astounding 84% of Unison members voted to accept the pay deal which the union sold as a 6.5% increase over three years for over a million NHS staff.

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Unison activist Karen Reissmann proactively spoke out about the NHS pay deal releasing a series of videos in which she called for staff to reject the proposed deal.

Threatened with disciplinary action.

The internal email in which staff raise concerns about the unions’ stance reads; “We note that Karen Reissmann is currently suspended from office in Unison. She is a member of Unison’s National Executive, and National Health Service Group Executive. She has been outspoken about the NHS pay deal, stating she believes NHS workers could have done better from this weak government and that Unison materials were misleading to members. We are concerned these views and her suspension are linked.

“We are aware branches were threatened with disciplinary action if they opposed the NHS pay deal.

“We are opposed to disciplinary action being threatened or instigated against individuals or branches for simply expressing a different view from the national leadership on issues that affect members or for campaigning amongst membership to alter UNISON policy on any issues. Unison need healthy debate, not the silencing opposing views.

“Whatever our own personal view of the NHS pay deal, or if we have no view at all, we believe that any investigation of branches or individuals are withdrawn and Karen’s suspension should be immediately lifted.”

Staff failed to get the rise they were expecting.

In September, Unison denied any wrongdoing after NHS staff failed to receive the rise they were expecting.

But, an independent external review completed by Electoral Reform Services (ERS) on behalf of the Royal College of Nursing criticised the use of the pay calculator that Unison encourages its members to use in order to make a decision about the pay deal. ERS said the pay calculator “was not able to relay the nuances of the deal” and therefore “was not able to provide sufficient detail to members on how the deal would be implemented and affect pay packets in the short term”.

GMB was the only healthcare union that recommended its members reject the pay deal.

Unison have not responded to a request for comment.

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Safe staffing and equality have been an issue since the start

Parliament passed the Nurses Registration Act in 1919.

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State registered nurse

A new exhibition charts the history of nursing from the Nurses Registration Act to modern-day.

In the centenary year of nurse registration, a new exhibition charts the history of the journey from the Nurses Registration Act in 1919 through to the modern-day.

Called ‘Wake up Slackers! The great nursing registration controversy’ the exhibition looks at the heated arguments around the official registration of nurses through the first registration of men, overseas nurses and one of the first nurses to be struck off.

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The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) was just three years old when registration first happened and securing this had been part of its founding ambitions.

The exhibition shows how many of the discussions and controversies of the past, including safe staffing, continue today and influence many of the discussions around modern nursing.

The Nurses Registration Act.

The exhibit contains artefacts from the RCN archive including invites to member meetings to discuss the College’s proposals for state registration, House of Commons Parliamentary debates during the year the Nurses Registration Act was passed in 1919, as well as drafts of legislation.

Opening during Black History Month, the exhibition also showcases the story of Eva Lowe, one of the first known black nurses on the register. Research shows how, despite being well qualified she was rejected many times before finding employment. It shows how she received vague and unsatisfactory excuses for her rejection, some based on false concern for her welfare.

As well as letters and documents from the RCN’s own archive, the exhibition will also feature items loaned from other collections such as that of the regulator the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Are nurses born or made?

Frances Reed, Events and Exhibitions Co-ordinator at the Royal College of Nursing said: “It is incredible today to think that 100 years ago there were arguments about whether or not nurses should be registered.

“Today it seems unthinkable for somebody with such responsibility for the welfare of patients not to be registered and yet there were strident clashes over it, despite other health professions securing regulation well before nursing.

“The story of the first black nurse on the register, Eva Lowe is important to highlight too. There is little known about black nurses whose names are on the very early 1920s registers.  It is essential we recognise that their contribution to health care existed well before Windrush.

“It’s also particularly striking to see how hard Eva Lowe had to fight to become the first black nurse on the register, and how 100 years later racial inequalities still exist in the health and care system.

The exhibition runs at RCN HQ in Cavendish Square, London 17 October – 20 March 2020

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Education

One in six nursing associates drop out before qualifying, finds report

Despite this trainees showed “high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the programme”.

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Group of nurses in meeting

Only 65% of trainee nursing associates said they planned to work as a nursing associate once qualified.

An independent evaluation of the nursing associate role commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) has found that while there are “high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the programme”, one in six nursing associates are dropping out before completing the course.

Attrition rates for trainee nursing associates fell slightly below that of student nurses, with 18% leaving before completing the course.

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While ill health and personal issues were some of the most common reasons for leaving the programme, nearly a quarter (23%) withdrew because they failed to meet the academic requirements of the programme – with numeracy skills cited as a key issue.

One trainee said they found the “attitudes towards the role and the negative feedback about Nursing Associates” challenging.

Only 65% of trainees said they intend to continue working as a nursing associate once qualified as the programme is often seen as a stepping stone to becoming a registered nursing.

Highlighting challenges.

Mark Radford, Chief Nursing Officer, Health Education England said the report “highlights some challenges that we must address to ensure that students such as ensuring the quality and oversight of placements, attrition and numeracy support.”

“We also recognise that further work and research is required to ensure that the profession is supported and utilised in the workforce of health and social care as part of the MDT. I am pleased to be able to report that we are in the process of identifying candidates to be considered as NA ambassadors across England.

Commenting on the report, Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar for the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), said; “Having had the pleasure of meeting many nursing associates across the country, I am continually inspired by their enthusiasm and dedication for providing care and they should be very proud of the difference they make for the people they support.”

“I look forward to seeing how nursing associates continue to develop and be supported in their work, long into the future.”

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