Blog: The UK government must invest properly in our nurses

This International Nurses Day, it’s not enough to celebrate nurses, we need to demand proper investment in the profession

Portrait of a nurse

UNISON is supporting the theme of Investing in Nursing for this year’s International Nurse’s Day, by demanding change in the UK.

I’m proud to lead a union with a strong history in nursing. We have so many inspiring nurse members who supported their patients and communities through the pandemic.

It was May Parsons, a UNISON nurse, who delivered the first COVID vaccination in the world outside of clinical trials, paving the way for the mass programme which has saved millions of lives and returned our freedoms.

But it’s not enough to just celebrate nursing, we have to demand investment in the profession to make sure we support and retain our nurses. The Westminster government wants the public to believe they’re recruiting and retaining enough nurses – but they’re doing nowhere near enough.

At our recent health conference in Liverpool, it was so inspiring to hear so many speak about their work and experiences over the past few years.

But our nurse members were also clear that things have got to change. They can’t nurse effectively and compassionately when they work in teams which are drastically understaffed.

They can’t keep seeing colleagues leave because of the pressures they’re under. And they can’t keep doing more, while the value of their pay falls.

The Conservatives’ failure to support our nurses deserves harsh scrutiny. They scrapped the nursing bursary in 2016, pulling the rug from under the whole profession by deterring students from joining.

And as COVID swept across the UK, the horrible consequences were exposed as they begged students and retired nurses to plug the gaps they had created.

They’ve continuously failed to pay our nurses the true value of their work.

After the pandemic, they offered a miserly 1% pay rise. Recently, UNISON nurse Gamu Nyasoro passionately told MPs on the health select committee that it was time nurses were paid fairly for the work they do.

Of course, NHS staff are One Team. Our nursing members fight alongside all our members in health care, for the pay rise they all deserve.

Today, on International Nurse’s Day, we are demanding more than warm words and claps from the government. Our health conference was clear on how to solve the NHS workforce crisis – widen access to nurse education and abolish health tuition fees, take action on safe staffing levels and have an ethical approach to international recruitment.

If ministers can start to properly appreciate the scale of the problem, and offer the serious investment needed in nursing, it will allow our nurses to continue their amazing work.

Please follow #IND2022 and @UNISONOurNHS to hear from our nursing leaders on International Nurse’s Day, and watch out for videos of our nurse members explaining exactly what investment they need.