norththe polls have voted to go on strike across the UK for the first time in the history of the Royal College of Nursing. The union announced on Wednesday that nurses in many hospitals and other NHS care settings would take industrial action in the run-up to Christmas over pay. The RCN has said that nursing staff will continue to provide emergency care during the strikes.
The move comes after the government refused to increase its offer of at least a £1,400 pay rise for around 1 million people working in the health service in England. The offer represents an increase from 4.5% to 5%, while inflation shot up to 10.1%.
Four nurses from across the UK share their views on taking protest action.
‘The only option is to withdraw manpower’
Mental health nurse, 36, Liverpool
“The State of Wages in the National Health Service It has become downright laughable. Despite the risks and casualties of the pandemic, the government appears to be taking the goodwill of my colleagues for granted. They just aren’t listening, and with the purchasing power of every hard-earned pound dwindling, it seems the only option is to retire the workforce. I don’t just want a pay rise for nurses, I want an equitable, inflation-stopping pay rise for all colleagues. [regardless of] your profession and salary level.
“The salary increase of 5% is not enough to maintain a standard of living. We shouldn’t have to take on extra work. I am concerned about the impact on the already questionable quality of care that patients receive with the cuts in services in the last decade. Even working to govern is hard to justify to yourself when you’re used to eating while you do paperwork, postponing bathroom breaks to complete assignments, and staying out late most days because you can’t and don’t want to let your patients down. . a burden on night staff who are already overburdened.”
“We have been paid very poorly for years”
Nursing staff, 38 years old, Glasgow
“I am very happy that the strike is going ahead. Nurses have been seriously underpaid for years. Those who complain that we are well paid should come and spend some time in the room and see if they still agree. I don’t think it’s underpaid, but our salaries just don’t reflect how hard we work, the stress of the job, the demands on our time, the level of responsibility for patients’ lives.
“I would accept that while it is not a low paid job, it is low paid for what it is, as the thousands upon thousands of vacancies in the NHS reflect. The salary of nurses needs to be completely reassessed, as it is not in accordance with the level of responsibility and duties that the job requires. Patients are sicker, nurses have been given more responsibilities since pay bands were first developed, and they are out of step.
“If any other role was under the pressure we are under, they would have taken action a long time ago. I think it’s because we’re predominantly a female service, we’re expected to just take it. Collectively we’ve had enough.”
‘I don’t believe in striking nurses’
Elder Care Nurse, 52, Lincoln
“I do not support the strike. I specifically joined the RCN when I qualified, as it was the only union that did not strike. I don’t believe in nurses on strike, we are here to take care of patients. I can’t think of anything worse for patients than having to risk operations being canceled due to staffing issues due to people striking outside the hospitals.
“We know that nurses have been underpaid for years, but the unions should be there to find alternative methods to striking. I will leave the RCN, I am not happy. There have to be better ways of bringing problems to light than putting more patients at risk. Emergency care will be prioritized, but what about the older people who remain in the hospital and don’t even get the care they need right now?
“Now there are so many problems that make working as a nurse less attractive. If I had my time again, I wouldn’t choose the infirmary, which is heartbreaking. It is a race that I have loved but it has almost broken me.”
‘Nurses are on strike for patients’
Senior nurse, age 53, Durham
“I absolutely support it. Nurses are on strike for their patients: they cannot care safely and that creates terrible moral anguish for us. Also, the pay is just cruel for the work and study involved. They have negotiated in good faith for years and have been ignored. They really have no choice.
“Countries that adequately pay nurses have much lower rates of attrition and vacancies. People trust nurses every day; it is surprising that they treat them as expendable.
“The payment offer does not correspond to inflation and therefore it is not really an increase. The professionals who stand by our sickest citizens, who bring people into the world and re-enact them, and who walk alongside the most marginalized and disadvantaged, go to food banks to survive. It is shameful.