When the Government gave nursing staff another real-terms pay cut this month, the Royal College of Nursing decided to ask all 270,000 of its members working in the NHS, including 58,000 in the South East, how they want to respond.
Sadly, there is no offer on the table for us to accept or reject – the Government imposed its below-inflation pay award. But as elected members of the RCN Council, we voted to launch this poll of all members. It will give nursing staff across the South East a stronger voice and a direct way to decide what action the RCN takes. Nursing staff are beyond disappointed by six years of real-term pay cuts. Over the same period, pressure in hospital and community nursing reached unprecedented levels and they are working harder than ever. In the online poll, they have a chance to vote for action short of a strike – such as not working unpaid overtime – or even taking the historical decision to take strike action. We find ourselves in an unexpected general election but there is no better time to hold politicians to account for the impact of their decisions. The 1% pay cap for nursing staff is fuelling a recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS that is as damaging for patient care as it is for the nurses themselves. We will use the collective voice of UK nursing to remind all parties of that before polling day.
Nurses are not taking this lightly. The wellbeing of patients is top priority of every nurse and healthcare assistant. But too many are struggling to make ends meet and they should not have to cover the NHS deficit from their own pay packet.
Maria Trewern and
RCN South East Council Members
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