Feature Interview

Nurses’ leader warns government not to pick fight with profession over seven day working

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h6796 (Published 04 January 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:h6796
  1. Chris Mahony, freelance journalist, London, UK
  1. chris.mahony{at}cjmedia.biz

The new leader of the nurses’ union talks to Chris Mahony about a seven day NHS, the axing of the student nurse bursary, and, whisper it, the green shoots of recovery in nursing numbers

If ministers target nurses’ payments for unsocial hours they are more likely to face a flight from the NHS than strike action, according to the new leader of the Royal College of Nursing.

Four months into her role, and after a long stint as number two in the organisation, RCN general secretary, Janet Davies, says that nurses tend to get “despondent” rather than agitated when it comes to their pay and working conditions.

Asked if she imagined nurses following the junior doctors into voting for strike action, she hesitates and visibly chooses her words carefully.

“I’ve got no idea. I think nurses are very mixed in their opinion—I don’t know, and it would be up to members. Nurses have got a lot of sympathy with the junior doctors, but opinions are mixed and people are really fed up.”

“I think we have got a problem that is bigger than the thought of nurses going on strike. What nurses have done in the past is they get fed up and demoralised and they leave. I think we should be more worried about losing nurses permanently than the odd day of a strike. It’s much more serious if they vote with their feet.”

She points out, however, that so far, apart from the pension scheme changes during the early days of the previous coalition government, …

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