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It's time to wake the sleeping giant

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VOL: 97, ISSUE: 18, PAGE NO: 33

Ray Rowden RGN RMN MHSM

We are nearing that happy time when politicians want to 'press the flesh' and ask for our votes. Last week Nursing Times launched its own nursing manifesto, which raises many important issues - not only for nurses but for society as a whole. Nurses know what makes the NHS and health care work. It is crucial that we make ourselves heard during this election campaign.

We are nearing that happy time when politicians want to 'press the flesh' and ask for our votes. Last week Nursing Times launched its own nursing manifesto, which raises many important issues - not only for nurses but for society as a whole. Nurses know what makes the NHS and health care work. It is crucial that we make ourselves heard during this election campaign.

The NHS Plan promises much but will take time to deliver. All political parties are committed to current spending plans, but as new money flows into the NHS we know there will be a temptation to throw yet more tasks at a workforce that is already exhausted. This would be a disaster. We have to persuade MPs that some of that new money must be ring-fenced for three essentials.

First, a revamp of pay to allow for a clinical career structure that will both retain and recruit more staff.

Second, we need greater investment in clinical leadership, as promised in The NHS Plan, so money can be earmarked to teach nurses new skills.

Third, some of the money must go towards easing poverty among nursing students. The issues may be lost at local level if nurses do not campaign for them.

More than 100,000 nurses work with older people in the independent sector. With pressure on local budgets, many nursing and care homes are being squeezed badly, which leaves nurses and patients vulnerable. Older people outside Scotland are trapped in a senseless lottery over the funding of long-term care. In a country that has one of the richest economies in the world, this is a scandal. Money can and must be found to improve this mess.

There are more than one million staff in the NHS, all with families and friends. Many thousands more work in health care outside the NHS. Of that workforce, nurses constitute the majority. In the election we are voters, just like anybody else, and we can influence the votes of the wider community through our family and friends. You might remind the candidates you meet over the coming weeks that nurses influence the way people vote.

We need to ensure that nursing is on the election agenda. Don't wait for the politicians to come to you. Get out and nobble them first. You can do this through your union or as an individual. Use NT's manifesto to help you.

One simple thing you can do is send the manifesto to your local candidates and ask them for a point-by-point response. Post their reply on noticeboards to keep colleagues informed.

Better still, organise a hustings meeting, or if that sounds too daunting visit your local MP in the constituency surgery and grill him or her on the manifesto.

We choose our law-makers in a general election. As such, they are public property. They are accountable to you. Use NT's manifesto to 'feel their collars' and make the nursing presence felt.

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