Brexit might threaten to overshadow the NHS in the debates leading up to the hastily called general election on 8 June. But we must make sure that health is not ignored, because it is an opportunity to make your feelings about the way the government is running the health service known.
Health is always near the top of the agenda when it comes to any pre-election campaign trail. As a result, the decision of Theresa May to call a snap general election in June gives the electorate a chance to debate, ask questions and ultimately pass judgement on the way this government has been running the NHS.
When so many decisions have been made that have run roughshod over the people employed in the health service, this is pretty crucial timing. And Ms May is mistaken if she thinks that all the electorate are interested in is whether we are in or out of Europe.
That might be her motivation for calling us to the polls, but it is also an unexpected chance to get the voices of nurses heard.
“This is an unexpected chance to get the voices of nurses heard”
So much has happened in nursing since the last general election. Student bursaries have been scrapped, post-registration funding has been slashed, the nursing associate role has started being piloted and the workforce crisis has deepened, which has been met with no political strategy to help.
The only thing that hasn’t changed is the state of pay of NHS staff. In real terms, the 1% pay rise annually for the past seven years is a change – because it is actually a cut.
“There are a whole host of issues that need to be addressed”
Some nurses will of course be concerned about Brexit, and what it means for the communities they serve and the nurses they work with. The health and social care sector cannot currently survive without overseas nurses propping up a poorly planned-for workforce. However, there are a whole host of issues about nurses’ pay, working conditions and the value that the government places on them that needs to be addressed.
And now is the time to raise them.
“Nothing makes a politician care more about these issues than when your votes hang in the balance”
Talk to your local election candidates and get their views on the issues that matter most to you. Do not let your pay and your working conditions and the dire shortage of nurses be pushed aside by more headline grabbing or crowd-pleasing rhetoric. Find out how they plan to tackle the pressures next winter, how they will ensure social care can be properly funded to reduce delayed discharge, how they will recruit and retain nursing staff, and how they will fund education and make up the severe shortfall in nursing numbers now and in the future.
Nothing makes a politician care more about these issues than when your votes hang in the balance. It is a rare opportunity to speak up, make them see the impact of their policies and commit to doing something about it. Don’t lose it or waste it.