Thursday, July 13, 2006

Seperate Mental Nurses Whitley Council Circa 1955

Drive For Separate Mental Nurses Whitley Council

By Joe Soley COHSE Goodmayes Hospital Branch Secretary

COHSE Journal January 1956

CARRYING posters with the slogans " Mental Nurses Demand their own Whitley Council," " Am I only worth 2s. one and half pennies an hour ? ", " £50 increase for Student Nurses." and " Overtime Rates for more than 48 hours," mental nurse members from Nos. 5 and 8 COHSE regions paraded outside the Royal College of Nursing in London on November 19th 1955, while the Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council was in session, in support of our campaign for separate negotiating machinery and a new deal for mental nurses.

That a £15 increase was the most we could extract from the Nurses & Midwives Council should strengthen the resolve of branches in other regions to follow our example, and lose no opportunity of arousing public support for our claims including a shortening of incremental stages for staff nurses and payment for overtime.

Judged on numbers alone—about 40 members joined in the protest parade—it was not such a spectacular demonstration as the student nurses' march to Hyde Park a few years ago—but it won for us considerable publicity in the local and national press, not to mention a great deal of public sympathy.

More than that, it shocked the Royal College out of its Victorian complacency and its startled officials must have got another shock when the hastily summoned police did no more than ask the demonstrators to keep off the pavement, and allowed them to continue their protest parade for another half-hour while the Whitley deliberations continued inside the College buildings.

Among the demonstrators interviewed bv newspaper reporters were Mr. Louis Aarons, Runwell branch chairman, and Miss Gladys Andrews, one of my student nurse members at Goodmayes, who was quoted as saying : "After paying for board and keep, I am left with £2 5s a week. We have to buy our own outdoor uniform. It just isn't enough to live on."

Now that we have broken the ice, I hope other branches in the London area will join in similar demonstrations at future meetings of the N. and M. Council. The time is also ripe for our provincial colleagues to be up and doing, and Iam sure it will not tax their imagination to devise-ways and means of attracting public attention to our grievance.

I hope members will take this up at their branch meetings without delay for it is essential that we should have vigorous "rank and file" support for the uphill fight which your representatives are waging within the N. and M. Council.

Powerful backing can also be gained by lobbying your local M.P.s as many of us have done in the London area;

My own branch asked our M.P. to receive a deputation but even before he could meet us he had asked seven pointed questions in Parliament on the relation between the shortage of mental nurses and the deficiencies of the negotiating machinery. For months we have been pleading with the Minister to restore the mental health negotiation machinery to where it belongs—the mental health service.

Orthodox protests having failed it is up to us to adopt more spectacular methods of awakening the authorities to the dangers of the present Whitley set-up which has reduced our mental hospitals to a state of overcrowding and understaffing bordering on a national scandal.

Branches get busy.

Joe Soleys son is Clive Soley MP