My Dear RCN,
I urge you to enter the real world, which is a political world. Many years ago I was advised not to let my politics ‘interfere’ with my nursing career. The old sister dispensing this advise told me that nursing and politics did not mix, like oil and water. It was a case of ‘ours is not to reason why’, but, as soldiers, ‘to do and die’.
Nursing did seem to reflect a military model, with its various colours of uniform and stripes of rank. It was a model perfectly suited to many nurses, I observed, for they were not questioners in the Great Army of Life, but, rather, a silent majority which mostly did as told, and then went home to attend to a greater priority – their families. (Though, a minority were ‘wedded’ to nursing, as nuns to religion).
Nursing was always that – peopled by an uncomplaining (mostly female) class that did not put their heads above the trench. Yet, I suggest a new anger is arising within nurses, who are becoming more mutinous as a result of savage mistreatment by the government, and the RCN should represent this mood of dissent.
The real world is, indeed, a political world. All the gains that workers made up to 1979 have been steadily dismantled, brick by brick. After falling steadily for generations after 1979, the number of hours worked per week began to inexorably rise. Between 1989 and 1999, there was a 7 hour increase in hours worked per household in the UK – a steeper increase than anywhere in Europe. Workers have faced an intensification of work, as in one nurse doing the job of two. There has also been a move to abolish additional pay for working unsocial hours.
My dear RCN, can you not see that this particular tide is rushing up Zero-hour Creek?
It will all be dressed in weasel-words – we need to introduce ‘various flexibilities’- which will be justified as ‘enabling adequate staffing at all times’, i.e., they will play the ‘patient card’.
When the director of the RCN said: “By asking the review body to ensure its recommendations on seven day services do not cost any extra money, the government is interfering with a supposedly independent body and attempting to force the dismantling of AfC and unsocial hours payments’, the obvious was being stated, but a wider truth not more starkly nailed: There are no such independent organisations. Whether called the NMC, GMC, or CQC, various groups involved in the NHS are merely ‘rubber stamps’ of the pro-corporate agenda of all the main political parties.
They will continue to treat nurses as cattle in their preparation of the NHS for full privatisation along American corporate lines.
You will not have a seat on their top table. You will not be consulted.
As I recently wrote: ‘The Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848, identified the unvanquished coalition that today seeks to trade people as cattle: ‘The Conservative Party exists to wage a political struggle on behalf of the ruling class; it is comprised of a coalition between a ruling financial and business bloc, and a subordinate petty bourgeois layer. They are, in the Duke of Wellington’s words, a party of “the great Aristocracy, the landed Interest, the Magistracy of the Country, the great Merchants and Bankers, in short the parti conservateur of the Country”.
The same manifesto also identified an ever-present principle of exploitation: ‘The average price of wage-labour is the minimum wage, i.e., that quantum of the means of subsistence which is absolutely requisite to keep the labourer in bare existence as a labourer’.
This is the subsistence direction in which nurses are being driven.
I suggest that the RCN has only one honourable course left open to it. That is, make the R in RCN stand for Revolutionary. Ditch your historic business-friendly stance. Stop fawning at the feet of political barons – for you are being assigned to the cold courtyard of their castles – and organise an increasingly bitter workforce to actively oppose the degrading of nurses’ living standards.
There will soon be nothing to lose. Only the truly desperate or saintly will want to become a nurse and work all hours for half a bag of peanuts.
The government, with NMC connivance, will continue to import foreign nurses, and will trawl the poorest countries to do so. I urge you to become independent of this Privy-Council appointed organisation, with those among your hierarchy abandoning aspirations to be voted into their hallowed hall. That is, serve the interests of your members and not yourself – you can not continue to pretend that to serve one is to serve the other.
I urge you to oppose the government and its mouthpieces with every strategy open to you.
Oppose Manchester NHS devolution – the admiral gives the ship to the sailors, then blames them for it sinking – and all such political charades.
Vehemently oppose NHS privatisation – the 6% contracted-out estimate is but a Trojan Horse. The gates are about to be opened.
Please conduct an enquiry as to how many UK nursing students are given long-term, full-time NHS contracts after completing their training. Telling people that many newly qualified nurses are emigrating flies in the face of reports from other countries about how difficult it is for their newly qualified nurses to find work. You are painting a small number of ‘swallows’ as representing an entire Summer. This is not to your credit.
I urge you to enter the real world, which is a hard political world; one not likely to be swayed by petitions.
lenin nightingale 2015