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Public support for nursing staff going on strike builds

New poll shows 60% of the public would support a strike by nurses as the RCN prepares to ballot its members over NHS pay in England.

RCN members at TUC rally

The YouGov survey took place between 25 and 27 June and asked more than 1,700 adults in Great Britain for their views on strike action in different professions.

The majority – 60% – said they’d support nurses going on strike. Second to them came doctors, firefighters and supermarket workers. A high number – 71% – also said they’d “sympathise” with a  strike by nurses, including 42% who would have “a lot” of sympathy for them.

RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive, Pat Cullen, said: "Would-be prime ministers need to look at this and plan for an urgent change of course.

"We will be balloting our members working for the NHS in England over pay and public support is already growing. They know that nursing staff are patients’ greatest advocates, and this support runs both ways. They are joining us in saying enough is enough.

"The government is refusing to recognise the skill and responsibility of the job. And they are pushing people out of the profession. A lifetime of service must never mean a lifetime of poverty. This real-terms pay cut for our members is a national disgrace."

This news follows a recent RCN poll that shows public support in England for nursing staff taking industrial action over pay had risen sharply in June to almost half.

The delayed NHS pay award for England was announced on Tuesday (19 July). The UK government announced that staff will get a pay increase of at least £1,400 for 2022-23. It said this will be a consolidated uplift to full-time equivalent salaries, enhanced for the top of bands 6 and all points of bands 7 so it is equal to a 4% uplift. Read more about it on the UK parliament website.

In response, RCN Council decided that we will ballot members on Agenda for Change contracts in England on whether they want to take industrial action.

This will not be a consultative ballot where we test the strength of feeling of members. It will be a statutory ballot which, if enough members take part and vote for action, could lead directly to our members taking strike action or action short of strike. Find out more about these terms.

We’ve been campaigning for an NHS pay rise of 5% above that level of inflation, to help address the cost-of-living crisis, encourage people to join and stay in the nursing profession and begin to restore a decade of underpayment.

To have your say in our upcoming ballot, it’s important we have your home address, job title and employer details. Check these now at MyRCN.

The NHS pay deal announced by the UK government has an impact on the money available for NHS pay in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It is for the devolved governments in those countries to decide what pay rise to offer staff working there.

The Scottish government recently offered NHS staff a 5% pay increase and an announcement by the Welsh government is expected soon. 

The situation in Northern Ireland is complex as a government hasn’t been formed following elections in May. We continue to demand the immediate restoration of the Northern Ireland government to address the escalating nursing crisis.