'Nurses unhappy with Health Secretary'

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Nurses are still unhappy despite giving the Health Secretary a dignified reception, nurse leaders have said.

It had been predicted Andrew Lansley would face a tough grilling from nurses during a Q&A session at their annual conference.

But the one-hour event passed without any flash points as he was quizzed about pay, pensions, cuts and reforms.

At the end, RCN leader Peter Carter said nurses were still unhappy despite the dignified reception he got.


Start Quote

Don't take that as some kind of indication things are fine. There is a great deal of unhappiness.”

End Quote Peter Carter RCN leader

Sharing a stage with England's health secretary, he said: "You really have to be clear… a lot people in the hall are not being treated with dignity, they are not being listen to and they are not being respected."

He said despite suggestions something was going to "kick off", nurses had treated Mr Lansley in a professional manner.

But he added: "Don't take that as some kind of indication things are fine. There is a great deal of unhappiness."

Mr Lansley appearance at the Harrogate event had been widely anticipated after nurses at last year's conference gave him a vote of no confidence.

Nurses' views

The overwhelming feeling among nurses at the RCN conference in Harrogate is one of anger.

Delegates have spent the day raising four basic issues - cuts to pay and pensions, pressure on front-line services and reforms many say are unwanted.

Marie Fraser, who works in the community in Liverpool, says: "Morale is so low - and it is getting worse. I have worked in the NHS since 1997 and this is as bad as it has been. The government is just not listening."

BJ Waltho, a nurse from east Dorset, agrees. She says the NHS is now on the "critical list" with hospital and community services both feeling the pinch.

And Mike Hayward's message to ministers is clear. The Portsmouth-based hospital nurse says simply: "How do you expect us to deliver safe care when you cut, cut, cut?"

The health secretary defended his record, saying that while savings had to be made they should not translate to cuts to the front-line.

So far the conference has been dominated by claims hospitals and community services are struggling.

Over the weekend, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) released a report suggesting patients were having to be treated in corridors and left waiting for hours on trolleys because of the pressures they were facing.

He said while nurse numbers had fallen, the number of doctors employed had actually increased by more.

He also called for the NHS to "celebrate" its successes, pointing out waiting times and hospital infections remained low, while access to NHS dentistry was on the rise.

"Lets give the NHS credit for what it has achieved," Mr Lansley added.

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