More misery for patients as first national nurses’ wage strike looms in weeks before Christmas
- Planned strike expected to cause major disruptions to health services
- The vote is the first in the 106-year history of the Royal College of Nursing
- Secretary of State Oliver Dowden admits planned strike ‘will have an impact’
Patients are entering a winter of chaos with the first national nurses’ strike likely before Christmas.
The Royal College of Nursing will reveal the results of its vote on strike action later this week, but a large majority would have voted for strike action.
It is the first time in its 106-year history that the RCN has voted all of its members in favor of strike action. More than 300,000 votes.
Hospitals will face unprecedented disruptions at the most difficult time of the year for the NHS, with thousands of operations potentially delayed and cancelled.
Royal College of Nurses has voted its members for possible strike action which could cause major disruption to hospitals at the busiest time for the NHS
It comes after the NHS’s waiting list reached seven million last month, meaning one in eight people in England were waiting to start routine treatment in August.
The strike will not affect emergency medicine, with nurses in the ER and intensive care units exempt from the strike. But it concerns theater nurses, who play a major role in the operations.
That is likely to cause delays and cancellations for important scheduled procedures such as hip and knee replacements, leaving patients already affected by the Covid backlog in pain for longer.
The NHS waiting list has already passed seven million with an existing backlog in treating patients due to the pandemic
Cabinet Secretary Oliver Dowden said the Department of Health had “unforeseen circumstances” for a strike and would prioritize the most essential services.
He said on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge program on Sunday: “I would continue to urge nurses and others not to go on strike, even if they voted to do so.
‘We have already agreed on considerable support for nurses.
‘If you find yourself in a situation where a large number of nurses are on strike, this naturally has consequences, for example for some elective operations and other activities.’
Minister Oliver Dowden says there are ‘contingencies’ for most essential services
The RCN is calling for a wage agreement for its members employed by the NHS of 5 per cent above inflation, which is a total increase of around 17 per cent.
The amount the government is offering nurses in England and Wales, on the advice of the independent NHS Pay Review Body, is 3 per cent, or 4 per cent for an experienced nurse.
That would bring the average annual base wage for an experienced nurse on the band 5 pay scale from £32,000 to about £33,400.
This comes on top of a 3 percent wage increase in 2021, when public sector wages were frozen.
There have been reports of nurses using food banks, struggling to travel to work, or leaving the NHS for better paying jobs in retail and hospitality.
Pat Cullen of the RCN said: “Huge numbers of staff – both experienced and newer recruits – decide they can’t see a future in a nursing profession that is not valued or treated fairly.
“Our strike action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses – we have their support for it.”
The RCN manual states that the provisions during the strike period must be equal to those on Christmas Day.
It didn’t allow strikes until 1995, when it changed the rules to allow action as long as it didn’t harm patients.
It voted nurses at 300 NHS hospitals and trusts.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘We appreciate the hard work of NHS staff, including nurses, and are working hard to support them, including through more than a million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400.’