The Royal College of Nursing has responded to the Conservative Party over its ‘failure’ to send a speaker to this year’s RCN Congress.
Nursing members have said that the prime minister has shown ‘contempt’ to the college and all nurses by not attending the RCN’s annual conference, which took place from 14 to 17 May.
The Conservatives said they were ‘afraid’ that the prime minister would not be able to attend the congress but offered her ‘best wishes’ for the event.
Theresa May confirmed on Tuesday, 16 May that she would not be attending the congress, despite the fact that the Labour and the Liberal Democrat leaders both addressed the RCN delegates on the Monday.
Following the announcement of the June election, each of the main political party leaders were invited to speak at the event in Liverpool and told that they would be given a time slot on the congress agenda.
After Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron addressed the conference on Monday, delegates hoped that it would put pressure on Theresa May to attend or to send health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
A letter from the RCN chief executive and general secretary, Janet Davies to the office of prime minister Theresa May said that the decision showed ‘disrespect’ to RCN members.
The prime minister’s office responded to the invitation by saying: ‘I am afraid that it will not be possible for the prime minister to attend the Royal College of Nursing congress this year, but please do accept her best wishes for a successful event.
‘Britain’s nurses do a fantastic job and deserve our thanks and support. They ensure that patients in our NHS get world-class care, and so we have made it a priority to recruit thousands more since we’ve been in government to help those already working hard.’
At the conference delegates added an emergency item to the agenda to resolve that the Conservatices’ absence was a sign of ‘contempt’.
They voted: ‘That this meeting of RCN Congress deplores the contempt shown in the letter from the prime minster for the Royal College of Nursing and the nursing family, and asks the general secretary to reply to her in the strongest possible terms.’
The RCN’s full letter to the Prime Minister’s office:
Dear Mr Beckingham,
Thank you for your response to my two letters of 21 April and 14 May. I shared your letter with Congress this morning, who were extremely dissatisfied in your response on behalf of the Prime Minister.
Our members are disappointed and saddened, and feel disrespected by the Prime Minister. Nurses were keen to hear from the Prime Minister personally about her plans to alleviate the difficult, and sometimes impossible situation, in which they are working.
Whilst we are pleased the Prime Minister states that she recognises the value of nursing, this does not reassure us, and feels like empty platitudes when we see no real action being taken to improve the lives of both patients and nurses.
This week, our members have spoken passionately about their own personal experiences, working both with insufficient resources to do their job safely and effectively, and insufficient resources to live their lives well, pay their bills and care for their families, or even travel to work to do the job they love so much.
Our members have taken the unprecedented step of voting for a summer of planned protest. Many never thought it would come to this and are now looking for guarantees that this Government will listen and act on the voice of nurses who keep our NHS going in the most difficult times.
I enclose a copy of our manifesto, which I urge the Prime Minister, should the Conservative party win the next general election, to enforce in full.
Chief Executive and General Secretary