The nursing profession is seriously considering striking over low pay, with the largest nursing union claiming that it is effectively driving people away from the profession.
In order to assess enthusiasm for a strike, the Royal College of Nursing has balloted its 270,000 members across the UK regarding industrial action.
This would be an unprecedented event, as the union had never called a strike previously.
The poll will be open until 7th May, at which time of the union will announce whether or not strike action will indeed take place.
Janet Davies, general secretary of the RCN, suggested that patients are beginning to suffer as the nursing profession is already understaffed, and recruitment has become challenging.
“If the Government expects to fill the soaring number of vacant jobs, it must value nursing staff more than it has in recent years. The false economy is driving people away from the profession. Years of real-terms pay cuts have left too many struggling to make ends meet. Nurses should not have to fund the NHS deficit from their own pay packets.”
NHS staff received a 1% pay rise at the beginning of the financial year, but this, of course, represents a pay cut considering the rate of inflation.
Christina McAnea, NHS spokesperson for Union, said the latest decision represetned a “derisory” offer.
“In the face of soaring fuel bills, rising food prices and increasing transport costs, this is derisory. This deal amounts to less than five pounds a week for most midwives, nurses, cleaners, paramedics, radiographers and other healthcare staff.”
Official data indicates that there are approximately 23,008 nursing vacancies across the United Kingdom, equal to an alarming 9% of the overall workforce.
While strike action is possible as a result of the balance, nurses will also be questioned on whether other forms of industrial action, such as only working for contracted hours, could also be effective.
The Department of Health stated that it had accepted independent recommendations about this year’s changes to pay and praised the “dedication and sheer hard work of our nurses”.
A spokesperson suggested that the 1% pay rise was simply unavoidable in the current demographic and public finance climate.
“Ensuring pay is affordable helps protect jobs – there are an extra 12,100 nurses on our wards since 2010 – which means frontline NHS services are protected at a time of rising demand.”
The aforementioned Davies, though, had previously admonished the poor pay deal, suggesting that it was actually an insult to hard-working nurses within the NHS system.
“This deals a bitter blow to nursing staff across England. The nursing profession is rightly held in high regard but kind words don’t pay the bills.”