‘Immense’ public support for NHS nurses in Merseyside as they walk out over pay and patient safety

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“Staff are stressed. Staff are leaving in droves. Newly qualified nurses are crying at the end of their shift” - NHS Nurses on the picket line at Thursday’s strikes.

The support for NHS nurses on Merseyside was audible and obvious as members of The Royal College of Nursing walked out in a row over pay and patient safety on Thursday.

As nurses stood on the picket line at Royal Liverpool University Hospital, and other hospitals in the region, the public could be heard constantly beeping car horns and showing support for the nurses as they passed by.

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The RCN asked its members to support industrial action as they launched the first ballot of its kind across the UK in the 106-year history of the organisation. The union is calling for a pay rise of 19.2%, but ministers have deemed this amount unaffordable.

At the end of the first day of a series of planned strikes that will see up to 100,000 nursing staff walking out in objection to years of real-terms pay cuts and concerns over patient safety, RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen said the government would now be ‘under pressure’ after witnessing the level of support.

“Today will be a turning point in the campaign for fair nursing pay,” Mr Cullen said. “At the end of it, ministers find themselves under fresh pressure from unexpected places - their own MPs, NHS leaders and a former chair of the Pay Review Body. Each of these groups, for different reasons, wants the government to stop hiding behind its current fig leaf.

“On a bitterly cold day, the public warmth towards nursing staff was immense. For my members, this has been about professional pride, not personal hardship - speaking up for nursing, patients and the future of the NHS.”

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The union has also raised the issue of substantial staff vacancies in the NHS, with 47,000 nurse vacancies in England alone, and want to protect patient safety by allowing the NHS to recruit and retain the nursing staff it desperately needs.

Staff are crying and leaving in droves

Laura, a off duty nurse who joined the picket line at the Royal Hospital to support her colleagues, said: "We've been fighting and campaigning for fair pay, safe staffing, better patient care, better conditions, and we are not being listened to by this government.

Laura is an NHS nurse on the picket line at the Royal Laura is an NHS nurse on the picket line at the Royal
Laura is an NHS nurse on the picket line at the Royal

“Time and time again, it's been in the headlines that we are struggling, and we really are on our knees now. Staff are burnt out. Staff are stressed. Staff are leaving in droves. Newly qualified nurses are crying at the end of their shift. Even the fully qualified who have been here for years are leaving because the conditions have gone down, and the pay is not in line with inflation.

“NHS staff have lost up to 20% of their pay since 2010. They have a choice, and it is a choice not to value us and not to fund our NHS.”

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Laura added: “It’s not safe at all every day is a struggle. Every day staff are getting more and more burnt out.”

In an interview with ITV News, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the government had "enormous gratitude" for nurses and NHS staff "for what they do and have done for us over the past couple of years".

A further day of strike action is planned for Tuesday, December 20.

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