Nurses’ goodwill is being abused, warns RCN leader

In her first speech on the opening day of this year’s RCN congress, chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair is expected to say that the goodwill of nurses that has been keeping the system afloat is wearing thin.

“They must stop the rot and put an end to the workforce crisis in nursing”

Donna Kinnair 

She will tell an audience of 3,000 members in Liverpool that England must follow in the footsteps of Scotland and Wales, and put safe staffing accountability into law.

“We will not stop until people are held to account for the desperate shortages each and every one of us has witnessed,” Dame Donna will warn.

“Politicians must stop short-changing the public,” she will add. “They must stop the rot and put an end to the workforce crisis in nursing.”

Dame Donna will say that without a government in Northern Ireland staffing shortages combined with low pay levels there represent a “public safety issue”. She will ask for public support ahead of a possible ballot on industrial action in the country later this year.

The RCN leader is also due to call on the government to return the £1bn that was “catastrophically ripped out” of nursing education in England when the bursary was cut.

“Rather than only looking at the cost of educating and employing nurses, the government must think about the true cost – financial and human – of not doing it,” Dame Donna will say.

“Employers, decision-makers and ministers with the power to change things should not let individual nurses take the blame for systemic failings,” she will add.

Appointed chief executive and general secretary on a permanent basis last month, after carrying out the role in an acting capacity since summer 2018, Dame Donna will use her speech to pledge to “fight” for the nursing profession.

“The goodwill of nursing staff is being abused and politicians must know it is running out,” she will say. “I will not stand by while this profession is denigrated.”

Dame Donna will also denounce the Brexit debate as having been “in the gutter for too long”.

“Politicians must resolve this drama and stop letting it dominate politics to the detriment of everything else,” she will tell delegates.

The RCN congress starts today and runs until Thursday.