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Biggest rail strike in 30 years across UK – will nurses be next?

Disputes are taking shape across the UK over NHS pay, with a warning that only an above-inflation rise can stop many experienced staff from quitting
Nurses on a picket line at Ulster Hospital in January 2020, when RCN members staged a second 12-hour walkout as part of a dispute over pay parity and safe staffing

Disputes are taking shape across the UK over NHS pay, with a warning that only an above-inflation rise can stop many experienced staff from quitting

Unions have warned the government of a dispute involving nurses and other NHS staff if it fails to deliver a fair pay rise.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said an above-inflation pay rise would not be a ‘miracle cure’ for the problems in the NHS but it would ‘be enough to stop many experienced staff from quitting’.

She said: ‘The government has a simple choice. It can either make

Disputes are taking shape across the UK over NHS pay, with a warning that only an above-inflation rise can stop many experienced staff from quitting

Nurses on a picket line at Ulster Hospital in January 2020, when RCN members staged a second 12-hour walkout as part of a dispute over pay parity and safe staffing
Nurses on a picket line at Ulster Hospital in January 2020, when RCN members staged a second 12-hour walkout as part of a dispute over pay parity and safe staffing Picture: Alamy

Unions have warned the government of a dispute involving nurses and other NHS staff if it fails to deliver a fair pay rise.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said an above-inflation pay rise would not be a ‘miracle cure’ for the problems in the NHS but it would ‘be enough to stop many experienced staff from quitting’.

She said: ‘The government has a simple choice. It can either make a sensible pay award investing in staff and services and reducing delays for patients. Or it can risk a potential dispute, growing workforce shortages and increased suffering for the sick.’

Disputes are already taking shape across the UK over the 2021-22 pay offer for NHS staff, while unions are gearing up to support staff ahead of the NHS Pay Review Body’s (RB) recommendations for the 2022-23 pay round.

Recommendations for NHS staff in England and Wales expected to fail to keep pace with inflation

The recommendations for England and Wales, due in the coming weeks, are widely expected to fall short of the pay rise needed to support nurses and other NHS staff and keep pace with inflation. The government has suggested a pay rise of no more than 3%.

An RCN spokesperson said following the RB announcement ‘members will have a chance to speak up for their profession, and their patients’.

Recent months have seen the cost of living skyrocket and workforce issues deepen, with a recent survey by the RCN revealing eight out of ten nurses said there were not enough staff on their last shift to meet patients’ needs.

Taking to Nursing Standard’s Facebook page, nurses said financial worries were forcing them to reconsider their jobs, with some calling for industrial action.

One nurse said now was ‘the best time for industrial action’, while another added ‘it’s been time to strike for too long’.

‘Please vote [in the ballot] when the time comes. Turnout is never enough to commence action,’ one nurse said.

Current picture on strike action

Nurses in England and Wales have said they are prepared to strike over their 3% pay offer for 2021-22. Some 54% of English members who took part in an indicative ballot last year said they would be willing to take strike action, and 84% said they would be willing to take industrial action short of strike.

In the Wales ballot 56% of those surveyed said they supported strike action and 91% backed action short of a strike.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland the RCN has entered into a formal dispute over pay after members made it clear they were not happy with a 3% wage increase.

The move follows a consultative ballot earlier this year in which 92.2% of eligible members who took part said the 2021-22 pay offer was unacceptable.

Things are further ahead in Scotland, with a 2022-23 pay award of 5% announced last week. Union members are now considering whether to accept or reject the offer.

Last year some 60% of nurses balloted said they supported strike action over their 2021-22 pay offer of 4%.

Negotiations between the Scottish Government, the RCN and trade unions have led to a higher pay offer for 2022-23, but the RCN said the offer falls short of expectations of a fair pay award.


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