Nurses have overwhelmingly passed a vote of no confidence today in England’s health secretary Andrew Lansley after a fiery debate at the annual Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Congress in Liverpool.
Mr Lansley will attend the Congress today, but not to address all delegates.
Instead he will meet a group of 50 nurses there from across the UK as part of the government’s listening exercise on the NHS reforms, which have been put on “pause” before they return to parliament to continue their progress to becoming formal legislation.
A debate took place with many speakers at Congress after which 478 nurses out of 497 (96.2%) voted for a motion that said they had no confidence in Mr Lansley’s management of the NHS reforms to abolish PCTs and strategic health authorities while giving GP commissioning consortia greater control of NHS budgets.
Health minister Anne Milton, also a nurse, addressed Congress on Tuesday, which the Department of Health said was more appropriate than Mr Lansley doing so.
RCN general secretary and chief executive Dr Peter Carter, said in his keynote speech at the conference that nurses would stand up, fight and “be heard” over what was happening to the NHS and cutbacks on staffing.
“Our message is simple: no more taking advantage of your good will,” he said. “No more treating your terms and conditions like they don’t matter. And no more financial pressures put on your bank balance – this has to stop and stop now.”
Reflecting nurses’ anger about the newly-implemented public sector two-year pay freeze and attacks on pensions and incremental pay, he said: “Enough is enough. The economic state of the nation may be dire, but that’s no excuse for pushing the very people that keep the NHS going to the absolute limit.”
He also criticised wasteful spending in the NHS and said that although there were efficiencies that could be made, this was undermined by the “scandalous cost” of PFI agreements.
“One hospital in East London cost £261 million to build six years ago. The taxpayer is now paying the money back and the interest alone costs £20million.
“If the government wants to get rid of waste in the system, start with renegotiating these agreements, not the pay and pensions of frontline staff.”