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Nurses’ strike: it’s not just about money, it’s about safety too

Nursing staff voice their support for industrial action over NHS pay and staffing concerns as RCN members vote to stage strikes across the UK
Nurse on march for pay holds RCN placard calling for fair pay for nursing

Nursing staff voice their support for industrial action over NHS pay and staffing concerns as RCN members vote to stage strikes across the UK

‘Do not let the government gaslight you into thinking we don’t care about patients’ – nurses have reacted to news of the biggest nursing strike in NHS history.

Tens of thousands of nurses have voted to take industrial action over poor pay and patient safety concerns, with many using social media to highlight why they wanted to take to the picket line.

‘In my 47 years as a nurse, I’ve never had the opportunity to take industrial action. It’s time. If the government won’t listen, then this was inevitable.

Nursing staff voice their support for industrial action over NHS pay and staffing concerns as RCN members vote to stage strikes across the UK

Nurse on march for pay holds RCN placard calling for fair pay for nursing
Nurses in London march for better pay in July 2021 Picture: Hesther Ng/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

‘Do not let the government gaslight you into thinking we don’t care about patients’ – nurses have reacted to news of the biggest nursing strike in NHS history.

Tens of thousands of nurses have voted to take industrial action over poor pay and patient safety concerns, with many using social media to highlight why they wanted to take to the picket line.

‘In my 47 years as a nurse, I’ve never had the opportunity to take industrial action. It’s time. If the government won’t listen, then this was inevitable. This action has my full support,’ one nurse tweeted.

Another added: ‘Do not let the government gaslight you into thinking we don't care about our patients. We are doing this because we care. Patients are suffering right now because we can’t retain or recruit enough nurses.’

Many nurses on Twitter back the strike, saying industrial action was about nurses ‘standing up for themselves and patients’.

One tweeted: ‘Solidarity with the nurses who have voted to strike, it’s time for the government to show they “value” healthcare workers just as much as they love saying they do.’

While non-urgent operations and appointments are likely to be affected by the action, emergency departments will run as normal, and nurses in those areas not allowed to strike.

Nurses in workplaces where union members did not vote in sufficient numbers to clear the legal threshold for industrial action, or work in emergency care and are not allowed to strike, will also be unable to take part.

‘Nurses who can’t strike stand in solidarity’

One nurse, who works at Barts Health Trust in London and voted for strike action, said she and her colleagues were left feeling helpless because the turnout threshold had not been achieved there.

‘It's so frustrating. As an A&E nurse we wouldn’t be able to strike anyway, but we want to stand in solidarity with those on the picket line. We have huge issues in A&E – totally different from those on the wards – that need to be addressed. It feels really unfair,’ she told Nursing Standard.

Another emergency nurse working in south London told Nursing Standard she had mixed feelings about not being able to join the industrial action, but added she was ‘so proud’ of nurses for taking a stand.

‘I understand the need for emergency care to continue but preventing us from striking isn’t supportive of our struggles,’ she said.

‘It’s not just about money, it’s about safety. We often put everyone else ahead of us and I’m so glad people have said no, enough is enough. It can’t go on, and this is how we’re trying to show we’re collapsing under the pressure.’

Strike vote is ‘disappointing’

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay described the strike news as disappointing, adding: ‘Union demands for a 17.6% pay settlement are around three times what millions of people outside the public sector will typically receive and simply aren’t reasonable or affordable.’

In July, Mr Barclay oversaw a pay offer of an average £1,400 (4%) for nurses in England, while the RCN has been campaigning for a pay increase of 5% above inflation.

RCN chief executive Pat Cullen said: ‘The results are strong and clear. This is a defining moment in our history, and our fight will continue through strike action and beyond for as long as it takes to win justice for the nursing profession and our patients.’

‘Nurses bear the brunt of an under-resourced NHS’

Health unions showed their support for RCN members, with Unison head of health Sara Gorton calling it a ‘loud wake-up call’ to the government.

‘Hundreds of thousands more nurses, paramedics, cleaners, health care assistants and other NHS employees are still to decide if they'll be striking for better pay and staffing. Now is the time for swift action to avoid a damaging dispute,’ she added.

Deputy chair of British Medical Association’s council, Emma Runswick, said: ‘Along with other front-line healthcare workers, nurses have borne the brunt of an understaffed and under-resourced health service, where despite their best efforts and working at their absolute limits, staff are too often unable to provide patients with the care they need.’


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