'I'm at breaking point': Nurses share why they're striking ahead of walkout

10 November 2022, 10:41

Heartbreaking call as nurse breaks down in tears over prospect of going on strike

By Maddie Wilson

After it was announced yesterday that nurses at the majority of hospitals across the UK have voted to go on strike at the end of the year, a number of nurses called LBC to give their perspectives.

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.

Nurses at most NHS employers will take part in the industrial action if the Government does not respond to the RCN's request for salary increases to be 5% above the RPI inflation rate.

Nurses called LBC to share their perspectives on the potential walkout, which could take place over Christmas.

Libby from Harrow, who has been a nurse for fifteen years, told LBC's Nick Ferrari that this was not a decision "taken lightly" and she "would never have wanted to strike ever."

Breaking down in tears, she said, "We're at breaking point, my health is being affected...it is not something we take lightly, but I just feel where can we go if we don't have nurses in the workforce?"

Libby told Nick the "constant workload" and never arriving home on time is greatly affecting, especially as she has kids.

"Since the pandemic it has been relentless, I thought it would ease up," she said.

While it would be supremely difficult for nurses who work in child or cancer services to strike, she said, "I don't see any other solution until the Government actually listens to us...we've been short-staffed for years. Our goodwill has been taken advantage of."

NHS nurse explains why they are 'burnt out'

NHS nurse Claire from Greenwich said, "This is not a pay rise we are asking for. This is restorative pay. This is years and years of this Government not paying at inflation rates of pay rises."

Nick asked: why now?

Claire responded, "Because we've had enough. Over the course of the pandemic, our staff got redeployed [during the pandemic]...I had nurses that I worked with crying, terrified. We lost staff."

She continued that nurses have asked for pay rises in line inflation as MPs do - but "we've always been given our measly one percent and that has resulted in this."

Claire went on to clarify that while some employees within the NHS have significant wages, such as chief executives, vast swathes do not.

"The majority of the working force are either band four nurse associates and band five. They're on the same pay as people who are potentially not doing as skilled a job," she said, adding that health care assistants are band two, meaning their annual salary is between £18,000 to £20,000 per year.

Nick Ferrari asks this cancer nurse how 'easy' it'll be for her to leave her post during strikes

In another call, Nick asked cancer nurse Alice from Bristol what care will look like during the walkout.

She said: "We are planning on operating what I hear is a bank holiday service. Through Covid we still had to keep cancer care working because it is so important."

Nick countered that this care "won't be the level of care you'd choose to give", to which Alice responded: "No, but it will be quality."

She continued: "No one's going to be suffering and missing out because we're still going to be seeing patients...safety won't be compromised."

The agency staff, "who get £80 an hour", will care for the patients during the strike, Alice said.

UNISON'S Clare WIlliams is 'confident' of public support

Will the nurses' strike have public support?

Nick Ferrari put the question to National Secretary of the healthcare union UNISON, Clare Williams, who answered that this strike will "send a message to the Government and the public."

"We know that the majority of the public do support our NHS staff," she said, "what I would say to you is: there's currently seven million people on waiting lists, we see daily ambulances queued outside of hospitals, people not being able to get beds and services.

"Actually it's the Government who's responsible for that."

Ms Williams said, "We're confident that the public will support hardworking NHS staff and there is a strike which isn't inevitable. The Government could stop that."

The RCN says its members’ wages have fallen by 20 percent in real terms since 2010 and is calling for a pay rise of 5 percent above inflation.

The government said the RCN's demands would cost £9 billion, adding that most nurses had been given pay rises or 4% or 5% this year.

Pay is causing people to leave the NHS, the RCN said. In the last year, 25,000 nursing staff around the UK left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register, according to the organisation.

There are 47,000 unfilled registered nurse posts in England’s NHS alone.

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