CNO wades into row with councillor over nurse ‘obesity’ tweet

Dr Ruth May waded in after the comment from James Dalton, a Democrats and Veterans Party parish councillor from Holme Valley in West Yorkshire, attracted a wave of backlash from the profession, with nurses branding it “horrible” and “insulting”.

Responding to a picture posted on Twitter by deputy Labour leader Tom Watson of members of the Royal College of Nursing dropping off a safe staffing petition to the Department of Health and Social Care yesterday, Mr Dalton wrote: “Why aren’t they nursing? And is there an obesity course they can be sent on?”

His tweet received hundreds of replies and reactions from nurses who were appalled by Mr Dalton’s comment.

Dr May has since stepped in to demand Mr Dalton remove his comment.

Addressing him on Twitter, she wrote: “Hello my name is Ruth I’m the chief nursing officer for England. Please have the decency to remove your tweet? I for one don’t believe these nurses need an obesity course. Nurses in England are doing a grand job right now.”

Many nurses have since responded to Dr May and have thanked her for sticking up for those in the picture and for the wider profession.

However, Mr Dalton replied by saying he would not remove his original tweet. 

Mr Dalton wrote to Dr May: “Tweet stays. Congratulations on your position. Perhaps focus on your job and address the obesity academic rather than join a twitter mob?”

Among the others who responded to Mr Dalton’s comment was RCN activist and London nurse, Danielle Tiplady.

She wrote: “What a horrible comment. It says more about you than it does us though. And for your information nurses don’t work 24/7 that would be against the law. Surprised as a councillor that is news to you.”

She urged residents of the Holme Valley parish to “check out one of [their] councillors’ views about nurses”. 

Danielle Tiplady

Danielle Tiplady

Danielle Tiplady

After Mr Dalton defended his position by claiming his views were about “Marxist activists in the RCN, not nurses”, Ms Tiplady noted that the college was not aligned to any political party.

Professor Brian Webster-Henderson, chair of the Council of Deans of Health, which represents faculties of nursing in the UK, reacted to the controversy by offering to provide Mr Dalton with “some education on nursing, its value, its contribution to society and its impact on people’s lives”.

The London branch of the RCN pointed out to Mr Dalton said that 57% of NHS staff worked unpaid overtime each week “to care for people like you”.

Meanwhile, RCN England director Patricia Marquis described Mr Dalton’s tweet as “incredibly insulting” and suggested he should meet with nurses.

rcn safe staffing letter

rcn safe staffing letter

Source: Royal College of Nursing

Members of the Royal College of Nursing take a safe staffing petition to the Department of Health and Social Care