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Gordon Brown: ‘Decent’ pay and conditions needed to recruit nurses

Gordon Brown: ‘Decent’ pay and conditions needed to recruit nurses

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for ‘decent’ pay and conditions for nurses as he spoke out against too many nurses resorting to using food banks.

Speaking at the RCN’s annual Congress in Glasgow today, Mr Brown called for investment to tackle the shortage of nursing staff across the UK, telling delegates ‘the best way to recruit when so many are leaving the profession is to pay decent wages and ensure you have decent conditions’.

He spoke of nurses having to queue up for food parcels in ‘food-bank Britain’, saying they should instead be ‘lining up’ to receive Platinum Jubilee medals. He also called for more resources and funding for the NHS ‘to let the nurses nurse’ and ‘the carers care’.

This comes as the RCN reports ‘growing numbers of staff using food banks, taking on additional jobs and accruing personal debt’.

‘Too many nurses using food banks’

Mr Brown told delegates: ‘Two years ago the NHS was deservedly awarded the George Cross for its work during the pandemic, but the reward for individual nurses has been pay settlements well below inflation, leaving nurses much worse.

‘Now, as part of the Platinum Jubilee, members of the armed forces and emergency services are rightly receiving Jubilee medals.’

‘I say all nurses too should be lining up to receive Jubilee medals, but instead – and it’s almost unbelievable that this is the case in the fifth richest country in the world – today, too many nurses are lining up at food banks.’

He continued: ‘Thousands of nurses report that, because of the cost-of-living crisis, they are skipping meals so they can feed their children.

‘I want an end to food-bank Britain by an end to poverty and low-pay Britain. This is not a party-political issue but a humanitarian issue. A matter of common decency.’

Worldwide vaccination

Mr Brown also highlighted that the world is six million nurses short, according to World Health Organization figures, and called the 170,000 nurses who have died during the Covid-19 pandemic a ‘tragedy’ and that ‘they are not remembered in the way they should be’.

In addition, he said richer countries need to do more to support vaccination across the world, particularly for populations of the poorest countries where vaccination rates are lower.

He said: ‘If were want a lasting memorial [for the nurses who died during the Covid-19 pandemic], we need to ensure vaccination of the world, in lower income countries.’

This comes as the RCN campaigns for a pay rise at 5% above inflation, although a group of 13 healthcare unions – including the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Unison, GMB and Unite – said this contradicted a joint position calling for an ‘inflation-busting pay rise’ they said the RCN had previously agreed to.