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RCN congress vote in favour of a referendum on final Brexit deal

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The final tally saw 364 votes in favour, 163 against, and 57 abstentions

At the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Congress, members voted in favour of a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

The final tally saw 364 votes in favour, 163 against, and 57 abstentions.

‘It was a healthy debate, with a clear result, and great to see our members so interested in the topic. It is very significant and interesting that this is how nurses are feeling. You could hear in the debate that they are already seeing the consequences of Brexit,’ said Janet Davies, chief executive of the RCN.

‘Today was not a vote on leaving or remaining - it was a vote about the deal and the right to vote on it. But to take this position formally, the RCN would need to do more consultation with the wider membership.’

During the EU referendum in 2016, the RCN took a neutral position. However, while Brexit negotiations have been underway, between April 2017 and March 2018, the profession has seen 3,962 nurses and midwives from EU27 countries leave the UK and only 805 join – an 87% decrease from the year before according to figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

‘We can’t manage without our European nurses but they are already leaving. Even though we’re desperately trying to recruit, people aren’t coming from Europe in the number they used to,’ continued Ms Davies.

The RCN has pledged to do more to represent its broad membership, with various political outlooks and points of view.

‘Brexit has made many European nationals feel decidedly unwelcome. And with NHS staffing pressures showing no sign of easing, no-one could blame nurses and midwives for thinking they’ll be better off elsewhere,’ said Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, a trade union.

‘This European exodus continues apace, simply because the Prime Minister has yet to do enough to reassure EU nurses and midwives that they’ll have rights, jobs and a future once Brexit becomes a reality.’

What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet your views to @IndyNurseMag

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As a European nurse in the service of the NHS for 20 years, I was deeply worried, and personally offended, by the RCNs decision to take a "neutral stance" on brexit. By failing to unambiguously oppose an agenda of jingoistic and isolationist xenophobia, and speak out against the accompanying political anti-immigration rhetoric, the RCN let down NHS employees and patients alike. For goodness' sake, what did they think would happen? Did they really think that European nurses will stay around to be abused in the media on a daily basis, that highly qualified staff (educated at the expense of other nation's taxpayers) will continue to come to the UK to staff the NHS? We are all paying the price now for the cowardice and fence-sitting of all those individuals and organisations who, like the RCN, took a "neutral stance".
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The government wish to blame a lack of nurses in this country on anything but because of the real issues-lack of a bursary to train, poor working conditions for most nurses (which is also a reason why European nurses do not stay) poor wages, lack of post graduate funded training,. Someone should answer for the loss of nurses who some years ago having trained could then not get jobs and a known element of nurses who are now retiring having been forced to work full time in the 80's when interest rates were high and who now become eligible for retirement at 55 ( & after many years of faithful loyal service fully deserve the ability to retire with our bad backs from being taught to lift heavy people on a daily basis-who remembers the Australian lifts and stretchers and poles to lift patients back from theatre-no hoists in those days??)
Another vote should not be used to avoid the real issues. Lets just train enough nurses to fulfil our needs also and welcome those who wish to come from other counties with open arms but not encourage to the detriment of their own healthcare services.
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