The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said that more than 300,000 nurses have voted to strike over pay levels and their fears over patient safety concerns.
RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said, “Anger has become action – our members are saying enough is enough.
“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.
“While we plan our strike action, next week’s budget is the UK government’s opportunity to signal a new direction with serious investment. Across the country, politicians have the power to stop this now and at any point.
“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. This winter, we are asking the public to show nursing staff you are with us.”
Today we have released the results of our strike ballot, showing we have a mandate for strike action in the majority of NHS employers.
Members will be contacted by email with full results for their employer.
— The RCN (@theRCN) November 9, 2022
Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, who are also currently balloting their members in the NHS for strikes, “This is loud a 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.
“A strike across the NHS this winter isn’t inevitable. Unions want to work with ministers to solve the NHS staffing crisis and its impact on patient care but that must start with another pay rise for health workers. Otherwise, delays and waits for patients won’t reduce.
“A second wage increase in line with rising prices would ensure staff can provide for their families. It would also stop experienced employees leaving so the NHS can keep caring for patients.
“Inflation has already wiped out this year’s 72p-an-hour increase. Threats of wage caps next year to make good the damage caused by the previous government’s economic incompetence will only make a bad situation significantly worse.
“NHS managers are fighting a losing battle. They know pay and the lack of staff are the main reasons why health workers are leaving at alarming rates.
“The NHS cannot keep patients safe without improving staffing levels. Boosting pay is a crucial first step in dealing with the NHS workforce crisis.”
General secretary @cmcanea on @bbcmtd last night where she was visiting West Midlands ambulance workers whose "morale is so low" that staff are "leaving in their droves" due to the "soul destroying" working conditions they have to endure. #VoteYesfortheNHS pic.twitter.com/HYqsuhnOGB
— UNISON – UK's largest union (@unisontheunion) November 9, 2022
An RCN spokesperson told Sky News this morning, “Our strike action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses – we have their support in doing this.
“As we begin action, politicians in every part of the UK will be challenged to back their nursing staff and understand the strength of public support.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said, “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.
“These are challenging times, which is why we accepted the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body in full and have given over one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year.
“This is on top of a 3% pay increase last year when public sector pay was frozen and wider government support with the cost of living.
“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.”
Wes Streeting MP, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: “There were no strikes in the NHS during 13 years when Labour was last in government.
“If we were in office today, we would be talking with the RCN and doing everything we can to prevent these strikes going ahead.”