News

Nurses will strike: NHS faces biggest walk out in its history

Thousands of RCN members have voted in favour of strike action over poor pay and patient safety concerns and most NHS employers will face mass walk outs

Thousands of RCN members have voted in favour of strike action over poor pay and patient safety concerns and most NHS employers will face mass walk outs

Tens of thousands of nurses across the UK are set to take to the picket line in the biggest nursing strike in NHS history.

All NHS employers in Scotland and Northern Ireland will be hit by strike action

More than 300,000 RCN members were urged to vote for industrial action over poor pay and working conditions, with nursing staff at the majority of NHS employers voting to strike, the RCN confirmed today.

Industrial action is expected to begin this winter and will last until May 2023.

Action will take place in NHS trusts and health boards that have met the legal turnout thresholds to qualify for

Thousands of RCN members have voted in favour of strike action over poor pay and patient safety concerns and most NHS employers will face mass walk outs

Photo of members of the RCN marching with placards, one saying
Picture: David Gee

Tens of thousands of nurses across the UK are set to take to the picket line in the biggest nursing strike in NHS history.

All NHS employers in Scotland and Northern Ireland will be hit by strike action

More than 300,000 RCN members were urged to vote for industrial action over poor pay and working conditions, with nursing staff at the majority of NHS employers voting to strike, the RCN confirmed today.

Industrial action is expected to begin this winter and will last until May 2023.

Action will take place in NHS trusts and health boards that have met the legal turnout thresholds to qualify for action. Some of the biggest hospitals in the UK, including Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff and Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast will see nurses walk out.

RCN members at all NHS employers in Scotland and Northern Ireland will undertake strike action, while in Wales all but one employer met the relevant legal thresholds. Many of the biggest hospitals in England will see RCN members walk out, but others narrowly missed the turnout threshold.

RCN's Pat Cullen calls for end to ‘financial knife edge’

RCN chief executive Pat Cullen
Pat Cullen Picture: John Houlihan

RCN chief executive Pat Cullen said: ‘The voice of nursing in the UK is strong and I will make sure it is heard. Our members will no longer tolerate a financial knife edge at home and a raw deal at work.

‘Ministers must look in the mirror and ask how long they will put nursing staff through this. This action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses. Standards are falling too low and we have strong public backing for our campaign to raise them.’

She also called on the government to use next week’s autumn budget to ‘signal a new direction’ with ‘serious investment’ for the NHS.

Health minister stands by below-inflation pay offer

In July, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay, who was recently reappointed to the role by prime minister Rishi Sunak, oversaw a pay offer of £1,400 or 4% for nurses in England. The RCN campaigned for a pay rise of 5% above inflation.

Wales also offered a 4% pay rise, while the Scottish Government recently upped its offer from 5% to around 8% backdated to April. Nurses in Northern Ireland, who are yet to be offered a pay increase, also took part in the RCN ballot.

Responding to the ballot result Mr Barclay said the government accepted the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendations of a 4% pay rise, on top of a 3% pay rise last year.

‘We are all hugely grateful for the hard work and dedication of NHS staff, including nurses, and deeply regret that some union members have voted for industrial action,’ he said.

‘Our priority is keeping patients safe during any strikes. The NHS has tried and tested plans in place to minimise disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate.’

Photo of a poster on a bus shelter saying Staff Shortages Cost Lives
Picture: Alamy

Other ministers this week have been urging nurses not to strike. Education secretary Gillian Keegan told Sky News this morning that there was ‘no point’ in nurses going on strike.

‘I would urge the nurses to continue those discussions, but the reality is if we gave massive above-inflation rises, not only would we have to raise a lot more money, but it would actually fuel inflation,’ she said.

A ‘life-preserving care model’ will be adopted

Patients are likely to face disruption to non-urgent operations and appointments as the strike goes ahead. Emergency patients will be treated in a ‘life-preserving care model’, with the RCN saying it is committed to ensuring emergency and urgent care can be kept running.

The strike comes at a difficult time for the NHS, which is facing one of its toughest winters on record in part due to staff shortages. Nurse vacancies hit almost 47,000 in England in June, with the RCN saying thousands of ‘burned out, underpaid’ nursing staff have left the profession in the past 12 months, many for better paid jobs in shops and bars.

Other trade unions, including Unison and GMB, are also balloting NHS staff over industrial action.


In other news

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Unlock full access to RCNi Plus today

Save over 50% on your first three months:

  • Customisable clinical dashboard featuring 200+ topics
  • Unlimited online access to all 10 RCNi Journals including Nursing Standard
  • RCNi Learning featuring 180+ RCN accredited learning modules
  • NMC-compliant RCNi Portfolio to build evidence for revalidation
  • Personalised newsletters tailored to your interests

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs