RCN position on COVID-19

The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) presents a significant challenge for the entire world. 

As a professional trade union, patient and public safety will always be our first priority. On behalf of our members, we have a number of expectations of employers and the Government. 

Everywhere nursing staff are working at the frontline, they must have the resources they need – including, where appropriate, protective equipment for their health, safety and wellbeing. We will continue to advise government and other experts about issues specific to nursing staff. We ask members to come to us with their concerns should they feel their health and safety or employment conditions are at risk.

The RCN expects employers to ensure that when members follow national public health guidelines to self-isolate, staff do not suffer any financial detriment or loss of pay for being away from work on account of public safety. Following calls from trade unions, the government has already extended statutory sick pay from day one to those who take time off sick due to the virus. 

While we await more detail on the government’s plans for student nurses, we are clear that essential health and care needs of patients must always be undertaken by appropriately paid and qualified staff.

We are also keeping a watching brief on issues related to requests for retired members voluntarily to return work and the potential implications this may have for matters such as revalidation, DBS checks and pension entitlements.

The government must recognise the added pressure these developments are putting on an already overstretched nursing workforce. As the RCN, we will continue to raise the voice of nursing during this critical time for the entire country.

Read our 23 March letter to the Prime Minister regarding PPE and priority health and care worker testing. You can also see our latest position statement on PPE.

On behalf of its members and in the interests of public safety, the Royal College of Nursing is seeking urgent clarity and assurances from government and health authorities across the UK that there will be:

  • Priority Covid-19 testing for all health care professionals.
  • Access to adequate supplies of personal protective equipment and hand sanitiser for all nursing, midwifery, social care and student nurse staff for use at the point of care.
  • Full occupational sick pay paid from day 1 for all our members, with no detriment, regardless of where they work.
  • Provision from government and employers to ensure all nursing staff can care for their children without a loss of income.
  • Clarity on the measures taken to protect pregnant and vulnerable nursing staff.
  • Stringent measures in place to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of staff by addressing fatigue, hydration and issues of abuse towards staff.