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RCN Congress 2017: Nurses can send 'powerful message' to government in RCN chief's speech

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Janet Davies, RCN chief executive Janet Davies, RCN chief executive

Nursing is still the best profession in the world, according to the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) chief executive.

Speaking in her keynote speech at the RCN Congress, Liverpool, on 14 May, Janet Davies reflected on a variety of issues currently concerning nurses nationwide but praised staff for their continuing dedication to their work.

She referred to nurses’ efforts to assist victims of the Westminster attack in March, as well as a nationwide poll which showed 93% of people say they trust their nurses.

However, a recurring theme in Ms Davies’ speech was pay – which has been capped by 1% rises on the NHS for seven years running. She said 41,000 RCN members – 78% of those who voted – were willing to go on strike over pay.

A ‘summer of protest action’ has now been announced in response to the mandate.

Ms Davies said: ‘The RCN has never been on strike. We've never even balloted our members. But 41,000 of you feel so strongly about the way you're being asked to pay for the UK’s economic problems that you’re prepared to take this historic, unprecedented step.

‘That’s a powerful message from you. The next government must surely have to listen.

‘But the truth is, the Trade Union Act means we need an even stronger mandate if we’re to consider any action. And while 41 thousand is a lot, it doesn't give us that.

‘So it’s important that every one of you – all of you here today – uses our summer of discontent to spread the word and get your friends, your colleagues, everyone involved

‘But whatever we do, our bottom line is that our patients will never suffer because of us.’

EU nurses were also addressed in Ms Davies’ speech as she told them ‘this is their home’ and asked them to ‘stay’, in a bid to stem the mass exodus which has taken place since the vote to leave the European Union last June.

She also spoke about the impact of cuts to NHS services – especially mental healthcare – and Prime Minister Theresa May’s response to a question on the Andrew Marr Show about nurses being forced to use food banks. Ms Davies said she ‘totally ignored the issue’ and ‘pretended it wasn’t a problem’.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, Mrs May’s rivals in the general election – set to take place on 8 June – will speak to RCN Congress on Monday, 15 May. No Conservative speaker has so far been announced.

Ms Davies concluded her speech by urging nurses to register to vote and convince their local candidates to adopt the RCN’s policy priorities in their manifestos. She thanked nursing ‘superheroes’ across the country and called them the ‘reason’ the public still trusted the profession.

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