THE biggest nursing strike in NHS history is set to take place before Christmas, with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) revealing the results of its ballot on Wednesday.
A large majority of nurses voted in favour of action in a dispute over pay. The strike ballot ran from October 6 and ended last week.
More than 300,000 members of the RCN, Britain’s largest nursing union, were balloted over strike action – the biggest in the union’s history.
When the strikes take place, they will affect non-urgent but not emergency care.
Fermanagh and Omagh branch manager at Unison, Jill Weir, said that the other unions were also currently balloting their members about the strike and that it looks like “another winter of discontent” ahead.
It is set to be the first national strike in the history of the RCN and will see the majority of services taken out, as well as picket lines across the North.
“Our strike action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses – we have their support in doing this,” RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said in a statement.
“Patients are at great risk when there aren’t enough nurses.
“Huge numbers of staff – both experienced and newer recruits – are deciding they cannot see a future in a nursing profession that is not valued nor treated fairly.
“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.”
Union officials say that since the Conservatives took power in 2010, the pay of some experienced nurses has fallen by 20 per cent in real terms. They are calling for a pay award of a 5 per cent increase plus inflation – a total of about 15 per cent.
The UK government appealed to nurses to “carefully consider” the impact on patients, but the RCN says ministers have failed to address a workforce crisis and that the “exploitation of nursing staff cannot be tolerated any longer”.
Strikes in the NHS will be a major headache for the government, which is already struggling to cope with pandemic-fuelled backlogs for care.
The government said it had followed the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendations, which included a 3 per cent pay rise last year, in recognition of work during the pandemic, despite a public-sector pay freeze.
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