The Royal College of Nursing has called on the future government to support safe staffing levels across all healthcare settings and ensure fair pay for nurses through a national framework of terms and conditions.
In its manifesto to the incoming government – to be decided from the general election in May – the union stated that it wanted to see a series of policies introduced to defend the nursing profession from cutbacks and “short-sighted decision making”.
These include the new government backing minimum staffing levels, providing better opportunities to nurses for training and ensuring workers’ concerns will be listened to and acted upon when they speak out about failures in patient care.
“The next government must stop the practice of cuts followed by one-off injections of money to deal with emergencies”
A framework containing pay terms and conditions, that has been approved nationally should also be retained, said the RCN in its manifesto, to ensure remuneration is fair and that staff are protected from “debilitating cuts which leave them unable to pay their bills”.
This reference to the Agenda for Change follows recent efforts to dilute parts of the contract by government and employers, and an attempt several years ago by a group of trusts in the south west to break away from it altogether.
The union is also calling for the government to empower nurses to progress through their career, pointing to the trend during recent years of nursing staff working at lower pay grades than they are qualified for due to trust financial pressures.
Incentives must also be put in place to attract young people to nursing careers in the NHS, said the RCN. It claimed nurses were fearful that pay freezes were causing students to consider working abroad instead, resulting in a “brain drain” within the NHS.
“The RCN calls on MPs to formulate policies for the future of nursing based on these priorities, which have patient care at their heart”
More widely, the union said it wanted to see “significant investment and focus on the community workforce and services” and a long-term workforce strategy across all settings, rather than knee-jerk reactions where money was allocated with little warning.
“The next government must stop the practice of cuts followed by one-off injections of money to deal with emergencies that result in overspending on expensive agency nurses,” stated the manifesto.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “The RCN calls on MPs to formulate policies for the future of nursing based on these priorities, which have patient care at their heart. Nurses and the people they care for deserve nothing less.
“Nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants care passionately about their work and the future of health care services in this country which is why the political parties would do well to listen to them,” he added.