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Nurses At Breaking Point: More Strikes Across England

Nurses across the UK are to vote for the first time in the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) for possible strike action. This industrial action comes after decades of cuts in the National Health Service (NHS), a backlog in operations to due COVID and a low-pay for junior staff. 


With an ageing population across the UK, there are concerns that the NHS will not be able to cope with this capacity. Both major political partners have promised to fund adult social care, but it is yet to materialise. 


The RCN is balloting around 300,000 of its members for industrial action. It is believed that these strikes may be in protest at the government’s decision in July to award most NHS staff a 5% pay rise, which ministers say will lead to frontline personnel receiving a salary increase of at least £1,400. 


The RCN argue that nurses should get a pay rise above inflation, around 10.1%. 


The NHS was created in 1948, on the principle of universal free healthcare, from cradle to grave. However, after decades of disinvestment, there remain many problems. Staff morale remains low, patient care is satisfactory and many patients wait long hours to see their general practitioners (GP) or for surgeries. 


In the past few years, there have also been cases of abuse in the NHS; neglect in Transgender support hospitals and elder abuse. 


Speaking in the Guardian, Pat Cullen, the union’s general secretary and chief executive said “This is a once-in-a-generation chance to improve your pay and combat the staff shortages that put patients at risk”. 


Many nurses use food banks and rely on universal credit to cover food and bills. And believe the time is now for industrial action. During the high of Covid nurses and doctors were also subjected to physical abuse, due to conspiracy theories that had metastasised around vaccination and lockdown. In the most extreme case, a nurse was hit by a car. 


In England and Wales, NHS staff, including nurses, are being given an average of 4.75% more, with extra for the lowest paid, while in Scotland, 5% has been given. In Northern Ireland, nurses are yet to receive a pay award. 


Midwives in Scotland have also been balloted on strike action by the Royal College of Midwives, while the British Medical Association has said it will ballot junior doctors over industrial action. 


RCM’s executive director trade union, Dr Suzanne Tyler, said: ‘We have previously warned NHS leaders and Governments in England and Wales that staff were at breaking point and a below inflation pay award would see midwives heading for the door. Our members feel undervalued, underpaid, and are now angry that the Government has not listened to them’. 


Earlier this year, the Government gave most NHS workers a pay rise, well below what unions were calling for. It seems that now nurses, behind railway staff, dockers and barristers become the latest professionals to vote for strike action. 


 


 


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