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Strength. Unity. Resolve

Pat Cullen 5 May 2023 Chief Executive and General Secretary

Our Chief Executive Pat Cullen considers crucial next steps in our campaign for fair pay and patient safety.

This week saw our biggest strike yet, with picket lines in place across England in response to the government’s NHS pay offer.

You told us in no uncertain terms that the offer was not acceptable to you and as a result, we requested a further round of talks and organised a new strike, this time involving colleagues from areas that had previously been entirely derogated.

The government dragged us to court and a judge deemed one day of the planned strike unlawful. I am proud that you did not let this deter you from raising the voice of nursing and exercising your democratic right to take industrial action.

I know this has been a challenging period for many of you, and once again I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you who made the decision to withdraw your labour. Despite what some may claim, you do this not for selfish reasons, not because you do not care, nor because you wish to see patients impacted.

You do this for those patients, to drive home the message that enough is enough in terms of low pay, unsafe staffing and unacceptable terms and conditions. Don’t ever lose sight of the ‘why’ behind your courageous decision. Every single member of nursing staff who goes on strike for fair pay and patient safety knows why they are doing it, and that’s what really matters.

On Tuesday, an NHS Staff Council meeting, involving employers and all health unions, confirmed that the pay offer for NHS staff in England was accepted by the majority of unions. We did not vote to accept, but you will still receive the offer.

What this means for us is that we remain in dispute with the government, and we will soon ballot you for another tranche of strike action. If most of you vote to strike, we will move into a further six months of action.

The statutory ballot – which by law must be carried out by post – opens later this month. A priority right now for all eligible members is to make sure your contact details and postal address are up to date so you can have your say.

I’ve been clear all along - the government can stop the possibility of strikes by getting around the table to talk about pay.

In Scotland this week we published our second Nursing Workforce in Scotland report. It sets out the ‘bigger picture’ around Scotland’s nursing workforce statistics.

The report contains ten recommendations for tackling the nursing workforce crisis, including an urgent call for a nursing retention strategy. We are using the evidence it contains to take urgent action through the Ministerial Nursing and Midwifery Taskforce and Agenda for Change review to once again make nursing an attractive career choice.

The workforce report was published in the lead up to a roundtable between RCN members and politicians. Representatives from across the political spectrum, including the new Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care, heard directly from members working in a range of settings about the harsh realities they face. Our Scotland colleagues are working hard to make sure decision makers learn lessons and drive positive change for nursing staff in Scotland.

Those of you working in the NHS in Wales still have time to vote in our consultative ballot on the Welsh government NHS pay offer for 2022/23 and 2023/2024.

A new mental health report from RCN Wales - which sets out why the Welsh government needs to invest much more in mental health nursing career pathways and workforce planning - has been very well received.

We know a lack of investment has led to inequalities in mental health services. People with severe and enduring mental ill health should always have the highly skilled care they need as close to home as possible. This starts with investing in the workforce. Wherever you work and whatever your role, I welcome you to read the report: Mental Health Nursing: A profession that must be valued.

You can still vote in our UK-wide Nursing Awards as the deadline for entries has been extended. Celebrate your innovation, expertise and contribution to our profession – and that of your colleagues – by submitting your entry before 15 May. I’m excited for the ceremony at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral in November.

Congress 2023 is just over one week away, and I cannot wait to see you as we come together for the UK’s biggest nursing event. I promise you an inspiring and high-energy week where we can debate, discuss and deliberate all things to do with our profession, in what is most certainly a pivotal time for nursing.

We’re preparing to celebrate Nurses’ Day on 12 May, and I hope you mark this important moment in your workplace. This year the theme is ‘the difference nursing makes’ – and my goodness – if ever there’s a time to reflect on the impact you make, it is now. Head to our webpage to find out how you can get involved in Nurses’ Day 2023.

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 - 03/10/2023