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Two-thirds of the public now support nurse strike, poll shows, as Royal College of Nursing announces increased strike payments for members

Press Release 02/09/2022

  • Overt public support risen to nearly two-thirds (64%), while three quarters (75%) say not enough NHS nursing staff for safe care
  • Nursing union top body increases the daily strike benefit payment and enables members to claim from day one of action

Just short of two-thirds of the public now support nurses taking strike action in their fight for fair pay, polling shows, as the Royal College of Nursing increases its strike payments for members ahead of this month’s ballot of 300,000 professionals.

The College is today confirming for the first time the total number of nursing staff across the UK who will receive ballot papers from the RCN.

The poll also shows a sharp twelve percent fall in public confidence in the safety of NHS care in only two months amid increasing concerns over the shortage of nurses.

These findings come as the College prepares to ballot members in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales on strike action for the first time in the union’s hundred-year history.

Ahead of the ballot opening on September 15, the College is also announcing increases to the benefit available to members from its £50 million strike fund after a meeting of the RCN’s governing Council this week.

Striking nursing staff whose earnings are withheld by their employer will now receive a strike benefit payment of £50 a day – a rise of just over 10% and commensurate with the level of inflation (RPI). The payments will also be made from the first day of a strike instead of the second day of lost earnings onwards.

Royal College of Nursing General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat Cullen, said:

“Strike action is no one’s first choice – especially nursing staff. We joined the profession to treat people, to advocate for our patients and the care they deserve – and through this vote we are saying they deserve better.

“Nursing staff on the picket line will receive £50 a day, to help to reduce the impact of action on their earnings in these toughest of times.

“If we are pushed to strike – we will still be advocating for these patients and the future of the NHS they deserve.

“This increase recognises the increased cost of living and the impact spiraling inflation is having on each and every one of our members.”

The YouGov poll shows that 64% of the public now support nurses taking strike action compared with 60% in June.

Likewise, the number of respondents who said they were confident they or a loved one would receive good care in the NHS now stands at only half (56%) compared with more than two-thirds (68%) in June.

When asked about why they are concerned about the standard of care available, nearly two thirds (62%) said this was due to there not being enough nurses and nursing staff to provide safe care, while over half (55%) say waiting times contribute to concerns.

The College’s ballot of members working on Agenda for Change contracts in the NHS on industrial strike action follows a decade of real terms pay cuts.


Notes to editors

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,752 GB adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26 - 28 August 2022. Historic comparisons have been made to fieldwork undertaken between 23-24 June 2022, available here:; and 25-27 July 2022, available here:

All surveys were carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

  • Two thirds of the public (64%) support nurses taking strike action
  • Three quarters (75%) feel there are not enough nursing staff employed in the NHS for safe care
  • Only half (56%) are confident they would receive good care in the NHS, a drop from over two thirds (68%) in June 2022
  • Nearly two thirds (62%) said this was due to there not being enough nurses and nursing staff to provide safe care, while over half (55%) say waiting times contribute to concerns

Details of the RCN strike benefit payment:

  • Daily strike benefit payment will increase to £50 per day – a 10% uplift.
  • The daily rate will be reviewed in the event of any sustained industrial action.
  • That the strike benefit payment would be payable from Day 1 of any industrial action.
  • That the strike benefit payment was payable on completion of 7 and a half hours work (7.5 hours); pro rata for part time members of staff.
  • No strike benefit payment would be payable where an employer does not deduct a member’s salary in response to strike action.

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