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RCN passes vote of 'no confidence' in Lansley and reforms


Royal College of Nursing members have overwelmingly passed a vote of no confidence in health secretary Andrew Lansley’s management of the NHS reforms.

The emergency motion, debated this morning at the RCN’s annual Congress in Liverpool, was passed with a 98.76% majority, and puts renewed pressure on Mr Lansley ahead of his visit to the conference this afternoon.

The secretary of state had already angered many nurses by refusing to address the full conference. Instead he has opted to meet a group of around 60 nurses separately today, as part of the government’s recently announced “listening exercise” on its Health and Social Care Bill.

However, a government keynote speech given by health minister Anne Milton yesterday afternoon added further fuel to the situation.

Ms Milton drew an angry response from conference delegates, after she suggested Agenda for Change pay increments could be frozen locally in return for job security, despite a national deal proposing similar terms already having been rejected by unions.

The motion passed this morning states: “That this meeting of RCN Congress, in the light of Anne Milton’s congress address, has no confidence in Andrew Lansley’s management of his coalition government’s NHS reforms.”

Proposing the motion, Mike Travis, of the greater Liverpool and Knowsley branch, said: “This debate is not about Andrew Lansley – he’s just a person who can be swapped in and out. This debate is about your patients and their access to care… our patients are losing services and funding hand over fist.”

He asked: “do we need these reforms at a time when the British public have great trust and satisfaction with the NHS?”

Mr Travis was followed by a succession of speakers voicing fears that the reforms will damage services and impact on nurses. Bethann Siviter, of the RCN South Birmingham branch, told congress that “if these reforms go ahead, the NHS is dying.”

Billy Drysdale, from Cumbria, said: “I have confidence in the government – that they’re going to make a complete pig’s ear of it.”

Tom Bolger of Suffolk warned of an “implosion” of the NHS, while BJ Waltho, of the RCN South West branch, accused Mr Lansley of lying to the RCN in his address last year. “That’s why I have no confidence…You may describe us as angels but there’s a little devil in all of us,” she said.

However, some urged caution. Jan Kennedy of Norfolk backed the spirit of the motion. But, she warned: “The RCN is in a unique position because of [general secretary Peter Carter’s] skill in being able to engage with the government – if vote no confidence now, we may well lose that right to be at the top table.”

Responding to the debate, Mr Carter said the motion was a “reflection of many members’ passionate and honestly held concerns that the proposed reforms could destabilise the NHS”.

He said it is “vital” that the government engages with the RCN, adding: “Nurses need to have a pivotal role within the new NHS structures, and we call on the government to listen to what our members have been express this week. At the heart of these concerns are the interests of patient care.”

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Readers' comments (14)

  • I hope that has seriously rattled his cage, but I'm not holding my breath with that arrogant man!

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  • Well a vote of no confidence, that's going to make a difference. He must be really scared.

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  • You say that it is not going to make a difference - what would you suggest as a way forward? Your comment is not helpful.
    At least this serves as a method of nurses getting their voice heard. For too long the nursing profession has been lethargic and lacked a voice - do not knock the efforts made today... please.

    Mr Lansley should resign and alternative proposals put forward for NHS reforms. The fact that his wife is a GP presents rather a biased view that they would be best placed to comission services! They of course are not.

    As for stopping increments for nurses - that is completely outragous and must be fought against by the unions and all nurses.....a measure like that would result in more and more good nurses leaving the profession, being disheartened further and demorilised. Nurse leaders need to recognise and value the exceptional worth of nurses as professionals and experts in their practice.

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  • Normally I would have agreed with the first two anonymous comments, but this time, on looking at what is happening, I have to disagree slightly. Anonymous | 13-Apr-2011 12:56 pm is absolutely correct.

    Of course the arrogant buffoon will still try to bully his pet project through, BUT just look at what is happening now that there is the slightest HINT of our unions getting a backbone and calling for strike action from our profession, the merest hint of that and we have them worried; the government and the trusts are already back peddling and backing down, they are trying to save face whilst trying not to show how worried they have become. They have got so used to an apathetic 'bend over and say nothing approach' from our profession, they are now afraid that they have awoken the dragon, to coin a phrase. Just look at how the phrases 'GPs and Doctors' have been subtly replaced in any speeches with 'Doctors and Nurses', etc etc.

    So if the slightest rumblings of a fight from our profession has them worried enough to back peddle and change rhetoric, imagine what a full scale strike would do! I say it is time to go on the offensive and bring them a fight that will not only teach them that they can no longer get away with treating our profession as second class citizens, but will tell them loud and clear that they can never do so again.

    Poor wages, poor working conditions, lack of staff, pay freezes, constant threats to our pay/increments/pensions/quality of life, etc etc etc, we must DEMAND that these are abolished immediately. It has gone on for far too long and I am sick and tired of being constantly threatened with this, that or the other.

    We CAN change things, if we shake off the cloak of apathy that has smothered our profession for so long. If we all stand up and start fighting now, they don't stand a chance, and they know it! BUT we MUST all stand up and fight! There IS no alternative unless we want the utter decimation of our profession and the NHS as we know it!

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  • This is incredible. The RCN and nurses speaking out, I'm chuffed to bits as I couldn't be at conference.

    This bit I find interesting as I think it buys into the blackmail that is applied wholesale in order that we don't speak out:
    'But, she warned: “The RCN is in a unique position because of [general secretary Peter Carter’s] skill in being able to engage with the government – if vote no confidence now, we may well lose that right to be at the top table.”'

    And that's beside freezing our pay, increments and vacancy filling in order that we allegedly get to keep our jobs.

    The GP's have spoken as well although they stopped short of a no confidence vote, just. Whatever support the govt keeps telling us it has from GP's is utter tosh.

    Change is needed but not this change, not in this way and not at this speed.

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  • BBC news -
    'Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has said he is "sorry" for failing to communicate his plans for the NHS in England'

    If only we understood what he was trying to say! Maybe if he speaks louder or tells us again we'll get it, and agree to all his plans?!


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  • Well said Mike. Bravo!

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  • I have to agree with Mike on this one, this vote of no confidence has got them worried. If one of Britain's biggest health professional unions has said you are not wanted then he has got major job security issues on his hands, especially with local elections coming up.

    I think we may see a complete reversal of plans within the next two weeks, until the government has got a chance to consolidate their position and will introduce it later in the year, probably just after declaring war on somewhere so it is overlooked.

    And BJ Waltho, Brilliant speech, we are proud of you here in the South West

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  • Can any one help me? i am a student nurse, and i am wondering, is this vote of no confidence going to prevent these changes being made to our NHS or will it just be considered and ignored?

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  • Leanne, it depends whether or not we finally stand up as a profession and strike, or we revert to form and allow them to ride roughshod over us again. So if if the call comes to strike, come and stand with us, and that will make it much more likely we can win and prevent these changes happening, as well as gaining much, much more.

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