Merseyside nurses urged to strike as NHS pay is a ‘national disgrace’

The Royal College of Nursing announces ballot dates for England and Wales and urges hundreds of thousands of members to support strike action.
Nurses face staff shortages and low pay. Nurses face staff shortages and low pay.
Nurses face staff shortages and low pay.

The world’s largest nursing trade union is asking members to support industrial strike action across the country.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will ballot members working for the NHS in England and Wales, on Agenda for Change contracts, on strike action which involves a complete withdrawal of labour.

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The ballot will open on September 15 and run for four weeks and the RCN are calling for a fully funded pay rise for nursing staff of 5% above inflation, which is currently 11.8%.

An emergency department (ED) nurse at Wirral University Teaching Hospital, who wanted to remain anonymous, told LiverpoolWorld: “I think a strike is necessary to show how needed and important nurses are, and to fight for the pay we deserve.”

In the latest RCN report for the North West, figures showed that Merseyside was facing extreme staff shortages and dissatisfaction.

Pay was a leading cause for dissatisfaction, as the UK faces a cost of living crisis and the highest rate of inflation in fourty years.

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Recent research suggests that the cost of living crisis will affect five of Merseyside’s constituencies harder than elsewhere in the country and many nurses are relying on food banks.

Arrowe Park HospitalArrowe Park Hospital
Arrowe Park Hospital

The concerned Merseyside ED nurse added: “Everyone in my department works incredibly hard to make sure we give the best quality of care possible and our pay doesn’t reflect that.

“I work long night shifts and look after incredibly ill patients and worked through the worst of the pandemic. The cost of living crisis is affecting everyone, we need to be well ourselves so we can do our jobs properly.”

Why are RCN calling for a strike?

Last month, the Government announced a much lower pay award, which the RCN say leaves an experienced nurse over £1,000 worse off in real terms.

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Describing the recent pay award as “a national disgrace,” the union says ministers’ refusal to listen to nursing has left it with no choice but to consider industrial action.

Royal College of Nursing fair pay campaign from March 2021. Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty ImagesRoyal College of Nursing fair pay campaign from March 2021. Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Royal College of Nursing fair pay campaign from March 2021. Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A recent national survey of RCN members found 83% of respondents said staffing levels on their last shift were not sufficient to meet the needs of patients and in the last year, 25,000 NHS nurses have left their jobs.

Estephanie Dunn, Regional Director for RCN North-West, told LiverpoolWorld: “Nurses aren’t after a huge pay rise. This is not about greed, it’s about survival.

“It’s over ten years since nurses have had a pay rise equating to the cost of living and it has become normal for nursing staff to use food banks, along with other public sector workers.

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“Healthcare workers were called heroes and clapped for and now feel as if they have been discarded.”

She added: “If nursing pay falls further and further behind the rate of inflation, the ability to recruit and retain nurses falls further and puts service users at risk.”

According to the latest figures, only 10.9% of nurses in Merseyside believe there are enough staff for them to do their job properly.

Pat Cullen, RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive, said: “Staff shortages are putting patient safety at risk and the government’s failure to listen has left us with no choice but to advocate for strike action.

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“A lifetime of service must never mean a lifetime of poverty. Ministers refusal to recognise the skill and responsibility of the job is pushing people out of the profession. The next prime minister must change course urgently.”

If its members support strike action, it will be the first ever strike by RCN members in England or Wales. The nursing union went on strike for the first time in its history in Northern Ireland in 2019.

The RCN has increased its industrial action strike fund to £50 million, up from £35 million, a defining decision aiming to provide financial support towards lost earnings during strike action.