Today as the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) led the first of a further two days of strikes, nurses in England say they feel ‘left behind’ as negotiations fail to reach any new pay offer.
The NHS in England was braced for disruption today as, for the first time, nurses from 77 NHS trusts were joined by ambulance crews in a day of coinciding strikes.
This came after the RCN announced on Friday that members in Wales would be postponing strike action to vote on a new pay offer from the Welsh Government which could NHS staff an additional 3% pay increase.
At the picket lines visited by Nursing in Practice today in London, nurses expressed their anger at Government for failing to engage the English pay unions in meaningful negotiations as have taken place in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
‘I’m very disappointed,’ said Margarita Dizer, a day surgery nurse at Guy’s Hospital in London, ‘It feels like we’re being left behind when we should have been one of the first to get negotiations. They are forgetting all the sacrifices we made [during Covid].’
Outside St Thomas’s Hospital in central London, Nursing in Practice spoke with Cindy Sparkes, a Band 8 nurse, who said that she was on the picket line for ‘everyone who can’t strike, because I have people on my team that can afford to strike.’
Ms Sparkes added: ‘They’ve been texting me saying they feel guilty they can’t strike. I’m here for the working class nurses who have had to fight to get where we are today.’
A big concern for the nurses on strike today, as on previous days of industrial action, was levels of staffing and the future of the profession.
Rangana Gurung, a nurse St Guy’s Hospital, [St Thomas’ or Guys???] told Nursing in Practice that wards were understaffed nearly every day in the hospital with nurses expected to do the work of ‘two or three’.
‘Its time that they should pay us what we deserve, pay us what we’re worth.’
Likewise, Lauren Dann, a newly qualified nurse said: ‘For me, I have a long career ahead of me, but if it continues like this then it isn’t sustainable.
‘I can barely afford to live as one person, let alone when I start thinking about having a family. I love my job, but this career just isn’t long lasting if that’s still the case.’
Meanwhile, the RCN has accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of refusing to negotiate. In a letter sent to Mr Sunak, Pat Cullen, the RCN’s general secretary, said that ‘opening negotiations and making meaningful offers can avert strike action.’
Ms Cullen continued: ‘Your government looks increasingly isolated in refusing to reopen discussions about the 2022-23 NHS pay award. As a result, the strike action for England remains – with tens of thousands of nurses losing wages to ensure you hear their voice. It must not be in vain.’