On the 5th of July 1948, the National Health Service (NHS) was founded in the United Kingdom. The NHS is the United Kingdom’s distinguishable feature since World War Two. After World War Two, the NHS was founded as a form of social welfare under the Labour Government.
After years of service, on the 15th of December, nurses exercise their right to strike under a variety of workplace issues. The nationwide strike will be between the 15th of December to the 20th of December, earning the title of the largest strike in NHS history. The strike is primarily regarding nurses' wages however, this primary issue has knock-on effects, which can cause concern over patients' safety.
A nursing salary can range from £27,000 to £33,000 on average, with specialists receiving more. The salaries are decided in ‘pay bands’ under the NHS contract, also known as The Agenda For Change. Under this contract, a nurse's pay will increase with their pay band, but this has not necessarily been followed through.
In response to the low pay for nurses The Royal College of Nursing requested a 19% pay rise. The Royal College of Nursing states that this increase is highly justifiable through the amount of work our nurses perform. In addition, this percentage is to account for the current inflation rate in society. However, this request was ultimately rejected by the Government, and was reportedly deemed as “unaffordable.”
Moreover, upon final talks with the Government Pat Cullen (the leader of The Royal College of Nursing,) accused the health secretary of demonstrating “belligerence”, by showing a lack of support for the profession.
According to Pat Cullen, this situation has been dire for decades now. Rather, the NHS has lost 20% of its nurses due to issues with pay. BBC News interviewed a nurse, Rebecca, who stated that "Over the years we’ve gradually lost more and more pay and more and more nurses. So to have that extra pay increase that we deserve, especially after Covid, will help invite more people to nurse and help bring the workforce back together."
Furthermore, in another BBC News interview, Emily Leitch a nurse at Leeds Royal Infirmary is striking due to the lack of numbers in the workforce. Furthermore, Leitch identifies that, if nurses were paid more, patient safety would increase. She recalls that there have been night shifts where she has been the only nurse on the ward when a minimum of three is required. The lack of staffing numbers is simply a reflection of the poor wage.
The nursing profession has not received support from the whole nation. An elderly patient in Wales was contacted to inform his appointment to fit a pacemaker was to be rescheduled. However, he has not been given an alternate date. The patient has stated that “If lives are at risk…it feels wrong to strike.” This demonstrates the complexity of the nurse's strikes.
In conclusion, the Government and the United Kingdom have varying attitudes toward the nationwide strike. Nurses across the country are taking part in the biggest strike in NHS history to receive fair pay. However, their demands are not being met. It is important for the Government to recognise that our appreciation for the nurses needs to be reflected in the pay, particularly in our current economic climate.
Image source: https://socialistworker.co.uk/news/where-are-the-nurses-strike-pickets/
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