The biggest nursing strike in NHS history will take place before the New Year. The UK nurses set a strike, hoping for a pay rise and better job conditions. It could have an impact on non-urgent activities and could cause disruption across the country. However, the strike would present a challenge to the UK government to change its policies.
UK nurses with the Royal College of Nursing voted to go on strike before Christmas. UK nurses set a strike in first-ever national action over low pay. Royal College of Nursing has sent strike ballots to the members to decide on the biggest NHS strike, in late 2022. The Royal College of Nursing is the largest nursing union in the world with half a million nurses, midwives, and nursing support workers.
According to the Royal College of Nursing, the pay of some experienced nurses has fallen by 20% since 2010. After the Conservative Party took office in 2010, the average pay of an NHS nurse has fallen by 8% in real terms. The NHS nurses are calling for a pay rise of 5% above inflation. It means, they want a 17% income rise and set a strike for that. But the government has said the average pay rise would be 4%.
The UK government has exploited nursing staff while failing to address a workforce crisis. According to Nuffield Trust, in the year to June 2022, one in nine nurses quit NHS England. Low staffing levels are one of the main reasons for nurses leaving their jobs. Working conditions and negative workplaces are among the other reasons for quitting their jobs. The number of dissatisfied nurses is now several times higher than a decade ago.
Hundreds of nurses have said to the UK government that enough is enough by voting to go on strike. According to the Royal College of Nursing, the UK nurses set a strike because they are angry. Every nurse works a lot while they are not paid enough. The UK government cannot treat nursing staff like this and hold the system altogether. There are thousands of job vacancies in the NHS so the current nurses have to work more.
Trust in Government
The UK government has to recruit nurses because both the patients and nurses deserve better conditions. The nursing staff is not just filling their posts at work but they work more hours while they cannot afford their bills. Nurses need to be satisfied with their jobs to look after patients properly. The NHS staff’s trust in the UK government is at its lowest level. The UK nurses set a strike, demanding a cost-of-living pay rise.
The UK nurses are tired of not being heard and noticed by the government. Things cannot go on like this and nurses are tired of propping up a broken system. The UK nurses set a strike because they believe it is their only hope of change. They have said the strike action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses. With a more attractive nursing payment, more people would like to join the NHS.
Inflation in the UK has risen above 10% in 2022 as the food and energy prices have been soaring high. UK inflation in 2022 accelerated to a 40-year high and the cost-of-living crisis squeezed households’ budgets. Charities across the country have warned that poverty would increase unless the government provides an inflation-matching wage increase. The NHS staff have not received a significant wage boost while they have to deal with serious financial concerns.
The NHS staff who held the burden of the pandemic throughout the past years are suffering financially. UNISON had previously warned that the NHS staff were going to quit and find better-paid jobs. More than half of them are not able to concentrate at work because they are worried about their finances. Around two-thirds of them said they would look for better-paid work, and one-fifth were looking for less-pressured working conditions.
The NHS had already suffered a workforce crisis that could worsen without a significant wage boost. The UK nurses set a strike to have their voices heard about their job hardship. The UK public sector workers are all dealing with the cost-of-living crisis. Their wages do not go up as much as the soaring inflation does. Any strike by the nurses, midwives, doctors, teachers, the workforce of transportation, etc, could be financial blows to the government.
Poverty on Rise
The UK government must urgently give a pay rise to the public workforce. A cabinet member has said the demand for a 17% increase was remarkably high. However, the UK nurses set a strike because they expect action from the government. Some nurses are forced to use food banks or they are reportedly eating leftover food from patients. The public sector finances are not in the best of shape, but the government must do its best to help them.
The UK nurses do not receive enough money to maintain a standard of living. Their buying power is reducing, so the UK nurses set a strike to ask for a reasonable pay rise. Their wages should be in accordance with the level of responsibility and duties that their critical job requires. Britons as a whole have experienced years of pay stagnation. This year, because of high inflation, people across the UK experience real terms wage cuts.
A recession in the UK lurks around every corner as the UK economy shrinks. Last week, the Bank of England increased its interest rate in three decades because of a prolonged recession ahead. The UK needs economic stability to grip inflation and reduce the cost-of-living crisis. The UK government is facing many challenges including the support for the NHS staff. The UK economy needs to restore growth and regain its confidence to address the workforce crisis.
The economic recession will have negative health impacts in the medium and longer terms. Both the NHS staff and the patients will suffer from the economic downturn. As the staff leave their job or lose concentration at work, the health system will not be fully functional. The worsening economic conditions in the UK have caused inequalities across the country. The lower to medium-paid households are hit worse and struggle to meet expenses.
Britons have so far coped with the financial squeezes, but the pressure is too much to tolerate. People need financial support to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and many NHS staff cannot afford their basic essentials. The National Health System has faced a crisis, economic downturns, and periods of financial uncertainty in its seven decades of operation. Today, the NHS is experiencing the worst crisis in history that puts patients at risk. The UK government policy will have a key role to play in mitigating the pressure.