The Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) Nurses in Management and Leadership Forum proposed an Emergency Resolution (Debate 28) at the annual RCN Congress debating the UK Government’s proposed Modern Bill of Rights.
Thank you so much to all RCN Forum members who supported the writing of this Resolution. An extra special thank you to Jean Davies, Chair of the RCN Children and Young People’s Professional Issues Forum.
We are delighted the Resolution passed giving RCN Council a mandate to lobby the UK Government regarding their announced Modern Bill of Rights, ensuring it protects individuals’ right to health, patient safety, and our professional nursing standards.
RCN Nurses in Management and Leadership Forum supporting information:
In the Queen’s Speech on April 28th, the UK Government announced plans to hold a consultation on Human Rights Reform, a new Modern Bill of Rights replacing existing human rights laws.
This year, nurses maintained the number one spot in Gallup’s Most Honest and Ethical Professions Poll for the 20th consecutive year.
With this trust comes accountability and responsibility. The College must lobby the UK Government to ensure any new legislation protects individuals’ right to health, patient safety, and our professional nursing standards.
Any new legislation introduced must consider health outcomes for all, especially vulnerable population groups; it must not risk asking us as nurses to practice in contravention to our Professional Code.
In 2013, the World Health Organisation commented that all legislation and policies must take a “Health in All Policies” approach.
In 2016, Public Health England discussed a Health in All Policies approach, a collaborative approach to improving the health of all people by incorporating health considerations into decision-making across sectors, policy and service areas to address the wider determinants of health.
We ask the College to lobby the UK Government to ensure this is upheld, as current evidence illustrates this is not the case, even with existing human rights legislation.
An example is the Nationality and Borders Act 2022. The first asylum-seekers will be deported to Rwanda in five days.
Congress must seek that Council lobby on the announced Modern Bill of Rights as it is consulted through Parliament.
The UK Government’s consideration of their Equality Impact Assessment regarding the legislation facilitating the deportation of asylum-seekers has demonstrated a total lack of compassion for individuals, no recognition of their right to a safe environment, or even compliance with international legislation that the UK is a party to.
Notably, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) mandates Children’s rights across all health policy; the RCN are represented at the Paediatric Nursing Associations of Europe, proactively looking at the rights of vulnerable populations.
Sadly, our colleagues are already reporting that children as young as nine experiencing suicidal ideation and attempts due to the increased worries of being deported to Rwanda.
On June 1st, third-sector organisations supporting asylum-seekers highlighted a significant increase in suicide attempts among those threatened with deportation.
A Yemeni asylum-seeker made a video addressed to the Prime Minister and Home Secretary. After he arrived in the UK and found out about the UK Government’s Rwanda offshoring plans, he had “no other choice but to kill myself”.
Another Iranian asylum-seeker attempted suicide believing she faced deportation. She was rescued, admitted to hospital and survived. Healthcare and nursing staff are being affected by the UK Government’s plans.
The Guardian reported on June 2nd that asylum-seekers being held at the Brook House immigration removal centre ahead of their imminent transfer to Rwanda are currently on hunger strike.
This move by the UK Government has a real-time, direct impact on these individuals’ physical, psychosocial and mental health. And that of the nursing staff who support them.
The UK Government’s Equality Impact Assessment regarding the legislation facilitating the deportation of asylum-seekers acknowledges that it may compromise these individuals’ right to health and patient safety. However, they are proceeding despite this fact.
By the UK Government’s admission, deporting those seeking asylum based on race, religion, gender, gender identity, and sexuality to Rwanda may have significant health impacts on this vulnerable population,
There has been an increased occurrence of suicidal ideation and attempts. Is it not our professional role as nurses to advocate for those who, through no fault of their own, cannot make their voices heard?
We need to exert caution as Registered Nurses. We can’t allow government legislation to put us at risk of breaching our Code of Professional Conduct?
But the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 may potentially do this to us.
It’s conditions may force us to engage in activities that place individuals at immediate risk of harm; in the UK, in transit, or while the UK remains responsible for asylum-seekers awaiting the result of their asylum claims in Rwanda.
This one example indicates the necessity for the College to lobby the UK Government regarding their announced Modern Bill of Rights, ensuring it protects individuals’ right to health, patient safety, and our professional nursing standards.
A morally questionable precedent has already been set.
The Nurses in Management and Leadership Forum has pledged that equality, diversity and inclusion is one of our key workstreams.
We ask you, Congress, to help us uphold this pledge by supporting this resolution.
RCN Children and Young People’s Professional Issues Forum seconding information:
The Law Society (2022) in their response to the Human Rights Act reform: a Modern Bill of Rights consultation, warned that a significant number of the proposals either reduce government accountability or shield public bodies from it. This undermines a crucial element of the rule of law, preventing people from challenging unlawful uses of power and undermining good governance.
The Human Rights Act 1998 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1989) exist to protect the rights of all citizens. The 54 articles within UNCRC mandate how adults and governments must work together to ensure that all children have their rights protected and achieve the best health outcomes possible.
Article 2 states that there must be no discrimination regarding ethnicity, sex, religion, language, abilities or other status and Article 24 advocates for the best possible health provision and health outcomes for all children. Article 22 outlines the provision that must be made for children seeking refuge from war and conflict, recognising the increased vulnerability of these children and the additional risks that they face.
Nurses have a duty of care (NMC, 2018) to act in the best interests of all patients and to maximise the opportunities for safe, effective, person-centred care based on their human rights. There must be no dilution or threat to the current hard won human and children’s rights. Children’s nurses in the four countries of the UK and in Europe (Paediatric Nursing Associations of Europe [PNAE], 2022) routinely advocate for children and young people whose voices are seldom heard and whose rights are often not upheld.
All nurses must be made aware of the concern raised by the Law Society regarding the threat to the current established rights which safeguard and protect the most vulnerable in our society.
Nurses must protect patients from the consequences, intended or unintended, of the Human Rights Act reform: a Modern Bill of Rights.
The joint Royal College of Nursing Forums urge Congress to support this emergency resolution.