Nurses vote to strike in first ever national action as cost of living bites

The state we’re in! – Owl

The biggest nursing strike in NHS history will take place before Christmas in a dispute about pay that is raging across the health service.

Joe Middleton

It would be the first national strike in the history of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which is campaigning for a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation, as reported by The Observer.

A union source told the newspaper: “This will see the majority of services taken out, and picket lines across the country.”

Although counting is still under way, it is understood that RCN officials believe enough members have voted for winter industrial action which is set to take place within a few weeks, possibly before Christmas.

The exact nature of the strike action is yet to be determined, but it will probably see patients face disruption to operations and appointments while already facing record NHS waiting lists.

Nurses topped a YouGov poll this year of professions who make the biggest contribution to society and made significant sacrifices during the Covid pandemic.

It comes amid difficult economic circumstances with sky-high inflation not seen since the 1980s and a warning just days ago from the Bank of England that the UK faces being plunged into its longest recession in 100 years.

The RCN ballot was carried out at an employer rather than a national level, meaning the thresholds required for strike action to be lawful in each country will be used to determine at which workplaces strike action could be held.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: “I want to thank members for taking the time to vote in this historic ballot. There has never been a more crucial time to fight for safe staffing and fair pay.

“Our NHS is on the precipice due to chronic staff shortages. Our profession is being pushed to the edge, with patient safety paying the price.

“None of us wants to take industrial action but we’ve been forced into this position after a decade of real-terms pay cuts. We can’t stand by and watch our colleagues and patients suffer anymore. Enough is enough.”

The RCN said there are record nursing vacancies and in the last year 25,000 nursing staff around the UK left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register.

It said recent analysis showed an experienced nurse‘s salary has fallen by 20 per cent in real terms since 2010, saying the goodwill and expertise of nursing staff is being “exploited” by the government.