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Nursing staff vote to strike in the majority of NHS employers across the UK

Press Release 09/11/2022

  • UK government must use next week’s Autumn budget to ‘signal a new direction’
  • Union leader calls on public to demonstrate support for nursing staff

Nursing staff at the majority of NHS employers across the UK have voted to take strike action over pay levels and patient safety concerns, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) can confirm.

Action will take place in the NHS trusts or health boards that have met the relevant legal requirements.

Many of the biggest hospitals in England will see strike action by RCN members but others narrowly missed the legal turnout thresholds to qualify for action.

All NHS employers in Northern Ireland and Scotland will be included and all bar one in Wales met the relevant legal thresholds.

Guys and St Thomas in London, opposite the House of Commons, appears in the list as well as other leading hospitals in capital cities of the UK – the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, University Hospital Wales in Cardiff and Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

This is the first statutory ballot on industrial action across the UK in the 106-year history of the Royal College of Nursing.

The results for each NHS employer are analysed individually in what is known as a ‘disaggregated’ ballot.

Industrial action is expected to begin before the end of this year and the RCN’s mandate to organise strikes runs until early May 2023, six months after members finished voting.

Nursing staff were balloted following NHS Agenda for Change pay announcements earlier this year, which left experienced nurses 20 per cent worse off in real-terms compared to ten years earlier.

In the last year, 25,000 nursing staff around the UK left the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register. Poor pay contributes to staff shortages across the UK, affecting patient safety. There are 47,000 unfilled registered nurse posts in England’s NHS alone.

The Fair Pay for Nursing campaign is calling for a pay rise of 5% above inflation (measured by RPI).

RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen said:

“Anger has become action – our members are saying enough is enough. The voice of nursing in the UK is strong and I will make sure it is heard. Our members will no longer tolerate a financial knife-edge at home and a raw deal at work.

“Ministers must look in the mirror and ask how long they will put nursing staff through this. While we plan our strike action, next week’s Budget is the UK government’s opportunity to signal a new direction with serious investment. Across the country, politicians have the power to stop this now and at any point.

“This action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses. Standards are falling too low and we have strong public backing for our campaign to raise them. This winter, we are asking the public to show nursing staff you are with us.”


Notes to Editors

RCN members on Agenda for Change contracts, who are working in the NHS and HSC under NHS terms and conditions, were balloted from 6 October – 2 November.

Researchers at London Economics, commissioned by the RCN, looked at the pay awards that NHS Agenda for Change nursing staff have been given in the UK since 2010. They found that in real terms, based on a five-day week, the salary of an experienced nurse has fallen by 20% in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 16% in Scotland. The research from London Economics, commissioned by the RCN, is available here.

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