Nurses set to strike before Christmas after voting in favour of first ever mass NHS walkout

6 November 2022, 07:49 | Updated: 6 November 2022, 07:53

Nurses are set to strike in coming weeks
Nurses are set to strike in coming weeks. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Nurses across the UK have voted to strike in the first ever national action over a pay dispute.

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The strike ballot among more than 300,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) was the biggest ever in the union's 106-year history.

Although counting is still under way, it is understood that RCN officials believe enough members have voted for winter industrial action which is set to take place within a few weeks, possibly before Christmas.

General secretary Pat Cullen said: "Our strike action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses - we have their support in doing this."

The NHS is also expected to face industrial action from other staffing groups including junior doctors, midwives and non-clinical workers like cleaners.

The exact nature of the strike action is yet to be determined, but it will likely see patients face disruption to operations and appointments while already dealing with record waiting lists.

Read more: 'We can't keep throwing money at the problem': Nick Ferrari calls for NHS reform

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Nurses have voted in favour of a strike
Nurses have voted in favour of a strike. Picture: Alamy

It also comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt already face the huge challenge of tackling a £50 billion hole in public finances.

In a statement, Ms Cullen said: "Patients are at great risk when there aren't enough nurses.

"Huge numbers of staff - both experienced and newer recruits - are deciding they cannot see a future in a nursing profession that is not valued nor treated fairly."

She added: "As we begin action, politicians in every part of the UK will be challenged to back their nursing staff and understand the strength of public support."

Nurses are just one of the NHS staff groups demanding higher pay
Nurses are just one of the NHS staff groups demanding higher pay. Picture: Alamy

The RCN said there are record nursing vacancies and in the last year 25,000 nursing staff around the UK left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register.

It said recent analysis showed an experienced nurse's salary has fallen by 20 per cent in real terms since 2010, saying the goodwill and expertise of nursing staff is being "exploited" by governments across the UK.

The union is campaigning for a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation.

The RCN is demanding nurses receive a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation
The RCN is demanding nurses receive a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation. Picture: Alamy

Nurses are not the only ones to be taking industrial action, with several other workers' unions voting to strike.

Commuters face travel chaos throughout summer after a number of rail and Tube strikes, with disputes still on going.

Another series of National Rail strikes, which were set to halt transport next week, were called off by the RMT union on Friday evening amid talks.

More Royal Mail strikes are also on the cards for November ahead of one of the busiest times of year for the industry - Christmas.