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Celebrating our great women-led nursing profession

Pat Cullen 10 Mar 2023 Chief Executive and General Secretary

Pat Cullen marks International Women’s Day and thanks RCN reps for their commitment to improving nursing for all.

Colleagues, I promised to update you on our ongoing talks around NHS pay in England. We spent one week giving government the hard-hitting evidence on nursing and in the last week we’ve been joined by all unions to talk about the full NHS workforce.

I’d like to thank you for your patience as talks continue. It has always been my pledge that as soon as I can share any news with you, I will. What I can say is that the past two weeks have been a significant opportunity for the RCN to clearly set out our case for a fair pay increase to those in a position to make decisions around how nursing is treated.

In Wales, thanks to member pressure on government, negotiations on NHS pay have now re-opened. Members recently voted to reject the updated offer the government brought back to the table and now they are talking to us about pay as a package for 2022 and 2023. The focus in Wales is also on pay for 2023/24. The Welsh government has been clear that it aims to make an offer with us by the end of this month.

Just yesterday, the annual NHS staff survey in England reminded me just why we are in dispute with government when it showed a significant decline in the quality of patient care, due to staff shortages. How many times do we have to say it? By anyone’s calculations, there are simply not enough members of nursing staff to keep patients safe. The impact of this is not felt just by those you care for, but by you and your colleagues, including in the form of stress, anxiety and depression. Worryingly, only 61.8% of nurses and midwives in the NHS in England said they would be happy with the standard of care provided by their organisation should a friend or relative need treatment. Only a fifth of respondents reported that there are enough staff at their organisation for them to do their job properly, compared to a third in 2020.

Without the investment in nursing so desperately needed, the situation will only continue to worsen, patient care will suffer and the exodus of staff leaving our profession will carry on.

This week I’ve had the pleasure of joining remotely the first RCN Reps conference of 2023. Our reps are a great source of pride for our organisation and are the visible face of the RCN in workplaces and settings across the UK. I’d like to say a personal thank you to everyone who serves as a rep, for their commitment, focus and determination to support staff and in turn, patients, whilst striving to improve the nursing profession for the benefit of all. If you’re curious about what it takes to become a steward, learning rep or safety rep, please visit our website.

As I’ve shared with you before, I come from a long line of strong women, many of whom have worked, and continue to work, in and around nursing. I was delighted this week to celebrate the contributions of women to our profession on International Women’s Day. There is no doubt in my mind that being a woman dominated workforce is one of nursing’s greatest strengths. May we continue to use our experience, our insight and our vision to support one another and continue to inspire generations of women in nursing.

I know you all work with remarkable people every day, and this year, we are looking forward to celebrating two new categories in our RCN Awards - Forum Member of the Year and Forum Committee Member of the Year. Find out more about these and other categories and nominate someone who makes a difference.

Our commitment to challenging the anti-strikes bill currently making its way through parliament is gathering pace. This week we used a debate on the bill in the House of Lords, where the RCN’s work was referenced numerous times, as an opportunity to highlight our opposition and influence proposed changes to the bill.  

Members employed by the CQC were recently asked to respond to our statutory ballot asking if they were prepared to take strike action or action short of strike. 60% of eligible members took part in the ballot, 84.62% of members voted in favour of action short of strike and 55.56% of members voted in favour of strike action. Next steps will now be considered by our Council and Trade Union Committee, and we will continue to work in collaboration with other unions representing CQC staff in this dispute. 

In Scotland, our member consultation on the Scottish government's new pay offer for NHS Agenda for Change staff is open. If you have already voted, thank you and do please encourage other RCN members who are eligible to vote. Votes must be cast by 9am on 20 March. The RCN Scotland Board has recommended that members accept the new pay offer, which includes a review of the Agenda for Change pay structure, because they believe it will make a positive difference for members. I urge every eligible member in Scotland to read the detail of the new offer and find out what it means for you individually and to use your vote.

If you’d like to submit an emergency agenda item to Congress, now’s your chance. Just follow the instructions on our website, where you can also book your place and discover more about the debates scheduled to take place. 

I can’t wait to be part of this year’s event in Brighton. What an opportunity for us to come together, celebrate how far we’ve come personally and professionally. Congress is your opportunity to help shape the future of nursing and the direction of the RCN.
Pat Cullen

Pat Cullen

General Secretary and Chief Executive

Pat has worked at the RCN since 2016. Before being appointed General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat was Director of RCN Northern Ireland from May 2019 to April 2021.

Page last updated - 09/08/2023