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Breaking: RCN members in majority of UK NHS employers vote to strike

Breaking: RCN members in majority of UK NHS employers vote to strike

Nurses from all four nations of the UK are set to join the picket line as the RCN announces the biggest wave of strikes in the union’s 106-year history following a recent below-inflation pay offer for staff.

The RCN announced that nurses on Agenda for Change contracts across 176 UK employers have voted to strike, after an average pay rise of 4% in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while nurses in Scotland received a flat £2,205 offer, despite the current inflation rate of 10.1%.

All NHS employers in Northern Ireland and Scotland will be included and all bar one in Wales met the relevant legal thresholds. Many of the biggest trusts in England – including those with community services – will see strike action by RCN members but others narrowly missed the legal turnout thresholds to qualify for action.

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.

Vowing to ensure the ‘strong’ voice of nursing is heard and urging politicians to act, Pat Cullen, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said that ‘anger has become action’ through the strike, with members saying ‘enough is enough’.

She continued: ‘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.’

However, nurses have said the vote was not just triggered by the below-inflation pay offer – but because of concerns over working conditions and patient safety amid real-term pay cuts, burnout and staff shortages, with vacancies reaching a record high of almost 47,000 this summer.

‘We are not taking the decision on strike action lightly,’ said Bernadette McQuade, a community staff nurse based in Scotland. ‘This strike is for everyone. You may not have needed the NHS yet but there will come a day that you or your family need this service.’

Leanne Patrick, a specialist nurse in domestic abuse and sexual violence also based in Scotland, said the ‘truly significant and historic’ vote sends ‘a strong message to our Government that the voice of nurses will no longer be ignored’. She added: ‘Nurses are striking for their profession, for the NHS and for patient safety – enough is enough.’

Hayley Thrumble, a district nurse working in east Surrey and Sussex, said the result was ‘excellent’ and commended those who voted for showing such bravery in what I know would have been a really tough decision’, although she could not personally vote as she works for a social enterprise.

She continued: ‘This is the first step to making sure our voices are heard and our message reaches as many people as possible. I’m proud that we have been able to come together to fight for the safety of our patients, the respect our profession deserves and the pay we need. Now we have to continue to spread the message and take action when required.’

June Girvin, a registered nurse and professor emeritus of nursing, said she is not eligible to vote but is fully supportive of strike action.

She explained: ‘There is no option left for nurses – previous talk/negotiations haven’t led to anything useful and the last three years have been hard to take for most nurses. People talk about patient safety in the event of a strike, but what they don’t realise is that it’s not safe always now, and that’s precisely why such unprecedented action is necessary.

‘Poor pay and conditions have meant that registered nurses have left the workforce in droves and those that are still there are working in extreme conditions where the pressures on them are far greater than they should be. I admire their strength in taking the action of pretty much last resort – what are they supposed to do?

‘They have been taken advantage of for years, the presumption of them ‘always being there’ has led to them being under-valued, under-appreciated and hugely underpaid. People who actually use our NHS services know how bad it is, and will support nurses. It’s those that know nothing about the situation or the work that are crying ‘foul’.’

The RCN has said that any industrial action will follow the life-preserving care model. This exempts treatments – emergency intervention, therapeutic services or urgent diagnostic procedures – that potentially threaten life or could lead to permanent disability.

The vote follows a month-long ballot of over 300,000 nurses across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, spurred by a below-inflation pay offer across the four countries in July.

Unison suspended its ballot in Scotland after the Scottish Government’s improved pay offer of £2,205, although the RCN instead continued with its ballot. No other national Government has attempted to make an improved offer, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak saying that the 4% offer had been ‘very strong’.

Speaking on Sky News on Sunday, cabinet officer Oliver Dowden said that the Government had ‘well-oiled contingencies in place’ in the event of a strike and that the NHS would ‘make sure we prioritise the most essential services’.

A recent study conducted by London Economics, and commissioned by the RCN, found that nurses’ salaries have been eroded 20% in real terms over the last decade.

A September poll conducted by the RCN suggested that over two-thirds of the general public supported the strike action.

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘We are all hugely grateful for the hard work and dedication of NHS staff, including nurses, and deeply regret that some union members have voted for industrial action.

‘These are challenging times, which is why we accepted the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body in full and have given over one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year. This is on top of a 3% pay increase last year when public sector pay was frozen and wider government support with the cost of living.

‘Our priority is keeping patients safe during any strikes. The NHS has tried and tested plans in place to minimise disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate.’

An NHS spokesperson said: ‘While pay is a matter for Government and the trade unions, we value our staff and want to see a resolution as soon as possible to ensure we can continue to focus on supporting our NHS organisations to deliver world class patient care to all those who need it.’

Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary, said: ‘There were no strikes in the NHS during 13 years when Labour was last in government. If we were in office today, we would be talking with the RCN and doing everything we can to prevent these strikes going ahead.

‘Government ministers spent the summer dodging calls and requests for meetings from the RCN. It is unacceptable negligence.’

The full list of employers that mandated strike action:

England – East Midlands

Ambulance Service NHS Trust

NHS Derby and Derbyshire ICB (Joined Up Care Derbyshire)

NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICB

Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust

Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

England – Eastern

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust

Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB

NHS Mid and South Essex ICB

NHS Norfolk and Waveney ICB

NHS Suffolk and North East Essex ICB

England – London

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust

Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust

St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust

University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

NHS North Central London ICB

NHS South West London ICB

NHS Resolution

England – North West

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust

Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust

Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Found Trust

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Found Trust

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust

Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust

Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust

Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust

Midlands and Lancashire CSU

Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Found Trust

Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust

Central Cheshire Integrated Care Partnership

St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust

Health Education England

NHS Cheshire and Merseyside ICB

NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB

Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

England – Northern

North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust

The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

North of England CSU (NECS)

England – South East

Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust

University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust

South East Coast Ambulance Service

Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Kent and Medway ICB

NHS Surrey Heartlands ICB

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

Solent NHS Trust

Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust

Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Devon Partnership NHS Trust

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Found Trust

Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

North Bristol NHS Trust

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust

Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT)

Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust

Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust

Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust

Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust

Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire ICB (BSW Together)

NHS Devon ICB (One Devon)

NHS Dorset ICB (Our Dorset)

NHS Gloucestershire ICB (One Gloucestershire)

England – West Midlands

Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust

The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust

Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trust

NHS Birmingham and Solihull ICB (BSol ICB)

NHS Black Country ICB

Yorkshire & The Humber

Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust

Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust

The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

NHS England

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

NHS West Yorkshire ICB

Wales

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board

Powys Teaching Local Health Board

Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust Headquarters

Hywel Dda University Health Board

Swansea Bay University Health Board

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board

Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board

Velindre NHS Trust

Public Health Wales

Health Education and Improvement Wales Health Authority

NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership

Digital Health and Care Wales

Scotland

NHS Borders

NHS Education For Scotland

NHS Fife

NHS National Services Scotland

NHS Shetland

NHS Western Isles

NHS Dumfries and Galloway

NHS Orkney

NHS Golden Jubilee

NHS 24

The State Hospitals Board for Scotland

NHS Grampian

NHS Tayside

NHS Ayrshire and Arran

The Highland Council

Healthcare Improvement Scotland

Public Health Scotland

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Scottish Ambulance Service

NHS Lothian

NHS Lanarkshire

NHS Highland

NHS Forth Valley

Northern Ireland

Practice and Education Council

Southern Health and Social Care Trust

Western Health and Social Care Trust

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

Business Services Organisation

Regulation & Quality Improvement Authority

Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service

Public Health Agency

Northern Health and Social Care Trust

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

Northern Ireland Ambulance Service

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