The Royal College of Nursing’s chief executive has written to the prime minister to reflect the “extreme dissatisfaction” felt over the lack of a Conservative speaker at its annual conference.
Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said delegates at the college’s congress in Liverpool felt “disappointed, saddened and disrespected” by Theresa May’s decision not to attend.
“Our members are disappointed and saddened, and feel disrespected”
RCN members were “keen to hear from the prime minister personally” about Conservative plans to “alleviate the difficult, and sometimes impossible situation” nurses were working in, she wrote.
She added that the college was not reassured by comments made in an earlier email to the RCN from the prime minister about the value of nursing, which Ms Davies said felt like “empty platitudes when we see no real action being taken to improve the lives of both patients and nurses”.
“Our members have spoken passionately about their own personal experiences, working both with insufficient resources to do their job safely and effectively, and insufficient resources to live their lives well, pay their bills and care for their families, or even travel to work to do the job they love so much,” she said.
She also reiterated that the RCN had voted earlier at the conference to hold a “summer of protests” over the 1% pay rise cap and drew the prime minister’s attention to the college’s election manifesto.
Today’s letter from Ms Davies to the prime minister’s officer followed a fast-paced series of events this morning at congress.
At the start of the day, the RCN leader revealed to congress delegates that she had received final confirmation from Ms May’s office that the prime minister would not be coming to congress.
It ended speculation that she might take up an open invitation to speak, after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron both addressed delegates at the event yesterday, setting out election pledges on the NHS and nursing.
- Corbyn commits to increase NHS nurse pay but gives no figure
- Lib Dems would bring back bursary, but staffing laws ‘not priority’
Shortly afterwards, a call was made for an emergency item to be added to the congress agenda stating that the prime minister was showing the RCN and nurses “contempt” by not attending.
The proposed resolution also asked Ms Davies to reply to Ms May’s letter “in the strongest terms”. To applause, the motion was voted onto the agenda and just as swiftly was passed without debate.
By midday, a letter of response to the prime minister had subsequently been drafted and was then read out to congress, which was again met with applause.
The full letter from Ms Davies to the PM’s office:
Dear Mr Beckingham,
Thank you for your response to my two letters of 21st April and 14th May. I shared your letter with congress this morning, who were extremely dissatisfied in your response on behalf of the Prime Minister.
Our members are disappointed and saddened, and feel disrespected by the Prime Minister. Nurses were keen to hear from the Prime Minister personally about her plans to alleviate the difficult, and sometimes impossible situation, in which they are working.
RCN Congress 2017
Whilst we are pleased the prime minister states that she recognises the value of nursing, this does not reassure us, and feels like empty platitudes when we see no real action being taken to improve the lives of both patients and nurses.
This week, our members have spoken passionately about their own personal experiences, working both with insufficient resources to do their job safely and effectively, and insufficient resources to live their lives well, pay their bills and care for their families, or even travel to work to do the job they love so much.
Our members have taken the unprecedented step of voting for a summer of planned protest. Many never thought it would come to this and are now looking for guarantees that this government will listen and act on the voice of nurses who keep our NHS going in the most difficult times.
I enclose a copy of our manifesto, which I urge the prime minister, should the Conservative party win the next general election, to enforce in full.
Chief executive and general secretary
Royal College of Nursing