Almost half of the British public think that the pay rise demanded by the RCN is too high, although general support for the upcoming nurses’ strikes remains high.
A survey by market researcher Ipsos of 1,083 adults across Britain found that while around three in five people support nurses in taking strike action, almost half believe that the RCN’s requested pay rise is too high.
Having rejected the government’s proposed pay rise of 4% on average, the RCN is currently demanding a pay rise 5% above inflation; this would currently equate to rise of around 17%.
Last week, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said that the RCN’s requests ‘are around three times what millions of people outside the public sector will typically receive and simply aren’t reasonable or affordable’.
The study found that after adjusting for known offline populations, the strongest support for the nurses’ strike was found among younger people and Labour voters.
Across all groups, 59% of people said that they supported the nurses’ strike, while 24% said they were opposed. However, in people aged 18-34, support was as high as 67% and, of those who voted Labour in 2019, 75% said they supported the strike.
Conservative voters and older people, by comparison, had much higher levels of opposition to the strike, with 41% and 35% respectively saying they were opposed to the strike.
However, out of those polled, 47% said they thought the RCN’s suggest pay offer was ‘too high’, while 38% said it was ‘about right’.
Even among 18-34 year-olds, 44% said the RCN’s pay request was about right, while another four in ten thought this is too high. Likewise, 64% of Conservative voters said that the suggested raise for nurses’ pay was too high, alongside 57% of 55-75 year-olds.
RCN general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, said: ‘The public can see that nurses are the voice of patients in this dispute. Decent treatment of nursing staff – fair pay and safe working conditions – is integral to safe and high-quality care of patients.
‘Nursing has had enough – enough of a financial knife-edge at home and a raw deal at work. They won’t stand idly by when their patients are put at risk by low pay and staff shortages.’
Kate Duxbury, research director at Ipsos, said: ‘The public’s strong support for NHS staff shines through, with a majority supportive of the planned strike action. However, while most think nurses are going to strike for an increase in pay… almost half think the requested pay rise is too high.
‘Against this backdrop, it remains to be seen how the public will respond to the strikes once they, and those they love, feel the impacts – but the affinity they feel with nurses should not be underestimated.’
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘We deeply regret 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.‘