Nurses in the UK are considering strike action for the first time

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  • If it goes ahead, it would be a historic move.

    For the first time in its 106-year history, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is calling on its nurses to consider strike action. The union, which is balloting its 300,000 members, is also recommending that they vote in favour.

    Why? Well it comes down to pay. According to the RCN, nurses should get a rise of 5% above inflation – which is currently 10.1% – but no UK nations (apart from Scotland) have offered this. The RCN also point to new analysis by London Economics that shows how pay for nurses has declined at twice the rate of the private sector in the last decade.

    In a statement on their website about the strike ballot, the RCN state: “This follows the below-inflation pay award in England and Wales and pay offer in Scotland. There has been no award made in Northern Ireland at this time.

    Strike action is a last resort. But it can be a powerful tool for change. Unfairly low pay in our profession is driving chronic understaffing. It puts patients at risk and leaves nursing staff overworked, underpaid and undervalued.”

    Results of the ballot are due next month. If the strike does go ahead, the RCN have stressed that emergency care would not be affected. Non-urgent care would be affected though, and undoubtedly, it would cause significant disruption to the NHS.

    A nurse speaking to Sky News on why she’ll be voting in favour of the strike, has claimed that every shift she works is “carnage” due to a lack of staff and underfunding. Katie Kendrick told the publication that the strike is needed to highlight the risk to patients, especially as winter approaches:

    “We’re only at the beginning of October and we’re not coping – we can’t cope. I am terrified about what is going to happen in winter – we are losing so many really good, valuable nurses. This is about patient safety. It’s not safe. I wouldn’t want my parents, anyone that I loved, to be cared for in a corridor.”

    Pat Cullen, the the union’s general secretary and chief executive, has urged members to get behind the ballot and vote for historic action. According to The Guardian, Cullen told members: “This is a once in a generation chance to improve your pay and combat the staff shortages that put patients at risk. Governments have repeatedly neglected the NHS and the value of nursing. We can change this if together we say ‘enough is enough’.”

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