Dear Mrs Skinner,

I welcome your long awaited correspondence which arrived for the first time by email on 16 June. I know that you have been telling many members about this correspondence for some time beforehand saying we would not publish it. I have taken the extraordinary decision to publish in full and respond.

I appreciate your acknowledgement of the shortage of experienced nurses and hope that you and your Government will take that fact into consideration when bargaining with nurses and midwives around important wages and conditions, which are important factors in recruitment and retention.

The NSWNA welcomes your decision to increase the Re-Entry to Nursing initiative scholarship from $6,000 to $10,000 in response to a petition to Parliament initiated by NSWNA members which received many thousands of signatures from both the community and nurses. Of course there was also strong media attention to the plight of nurses who could not afford the Re-Entry to Practice courses at the College of Nursing prior to your decision. Unfortunately many nurses still face hurdles such as relocation for a minimum of four weeks to Sydney with associated costs of accommodation, travel and childcare.

We welcomed your agreement to write to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). We note that the policy released on the three month re-entry supervised practice now requires nurses to undertake that practice as student nurses, leaving it open for employers to require supervised nurses to work unpaid for the three month period. I hope that the Ministry of Health would provide guidance to Local Health Districts to employ these nurses as an Assistant in Nursing at the very least.

The NSWNA welcomes each and every one of those 2475 new nurses into the Public Health System. We understand that the number is a headcount and does not necessarily equate to full time equivalents. We welcome and applaud your Government’s commitment to employ more nurses and in particular additional Clinical Nurse Educators and Clinical Nurse Specialists.

We welcome and applaud the implementation of the Nursing Hours Per Patient Day (NHPPD) or Nurse to Patient Ratios, which will result in at least 1400 full time equivalent nursing positions being added to our Public Health System. As you know the NSWNA has made this clear with two television advertising campaigns since winning this outcome from the previous government in 2011. We applaud your government’s commitment to honour your legal obligation under the Award and not to change legislation to do otherwise.

We note the wage increases of 3.9%, 3% and 2.5% over three years negotiated with the previous government as a package which included the Nurse to Patient Ratios delivered by NHPPD. We also note that your government has determined that future pay rises are capped at 2.5% and that your government has removed nurses and midwives rights to have future pay increases beyond 2.5% determined by the the independent umpire of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.

Finally we acknowledge your commitment in writing that you have no plans to change the arrangements agreed in the last Award negotiation including NHPPD/Ratios as agreed. I have published your letter in full so that every member of the NSWNA can see your commitments and look forward to future negotiations to improve our Public Health System for the benefit of the people of NSW and the Nurses and Midwives who work hard everyday delivering care within a system under enormous pressure.

Yours faithfully,

Brett Holmes