Health secretary Andrew Lansley is to address the Royal College of Nursing’s annual congress this year, it has been announced.
His speech to the conference may receive a fairly lukewarm response, given the RCN’s opposition to the government’s Health and Social Care Bill, which was passed last month, and the events surrounding the 2011 congress in Liverpool.
Mr Lansley was roundly criticised last year for “lacking the guts” to face the full conference. Instead he opted to meet a group of 50 nurses as part of the government’s “pause” and listening exercise on its NHS reforms. It had initially been rumoured that he would not attend at all.
Health minister Anne Milton gave the government address. But she sparked a vote of “no confidence” in the government’s management of the reforms when 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.
Mr Lansley will address this year’s congress in Harrogate on 14 May.
Other keynote speakers will include Labour leader Ed Miliband and Sir Keith Pearson, chair of the NHS Confederation and co-chair of the Commission on Dignity in Care, which published a report earlier this year.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said he was “delighted” Mr Lansley and the other keynote speakers would be addressing the conference.
“The NHS is currently going through a huge series of challenges and we look forward to hearing their perspectives on nursing and the reform agenda,” he said.
Delegates are also set to debate a range of issues, including the effects of shift working on staff and patients, and financial incentives to be healthy.