IR was late last Thursday when Naomi Follen Somers, a young nurse at Derbyshire Community Health Services, finished caring for her latest patient. The 23-year-old used to work overtime most days of the week, but on that day, her shift was especially long and exhausting.
As she walked to her car, she peeked at a notification that appeared on her phone. It was an announcement from the Royal College of Nursing, which read: “Nursing staff are voting to strike in the majority of NHS employers across the UK”.
Sommers sighed in relief: “I just thought, ‘Thank God, things really need to change,'” she remembers.
For the first time in 106 years, the Royal College of Nursing, or RCN, decided to strike after an industrial strike vote with more than 300,000 union members took place last week, to demand better pay and cite concerns about patient safety. RCN expects nurses at most of the state-run National Health Services, as well as many of the country’s largest hospitals, to take part in the strikes, which are expected to begin before the end of this year.
RCN Secretary General Pat Cullen said in a statement statement. “Our members will no longer tolerate the financial knife edge at home and the raw deal at work.”
Nurses hold signs outside the Royal College of Nursing in Victoria Tower Gardens, London, after the government announced the NHS pay offer, on July 21, 2021.
Jonathan Brady – PA Wire / AP
With the UK’s cost of living soaring due to inflation hitting 10% and rising energy bills, the RCN’s decision to strike has raised fears that an unprecedented wave of industrial strike from the public sector – including healthcare and public transport – will sweep the nation this winter.
Besides acute work pressures, RCN also points to low nursing staff retention which has contributed to staff shortages across the UK.
25,000 nursing staff across the country left the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) registry last year, along with 47,000 vacant nurse positions on the NHS. He argues the shortage is largely driven by poor wages: Following the NHS for Change pay announcements earlier this year, nurses were 20% worse in real terms in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 16% worse in Scotland, compared to ten years ago, according to For researchers at London Economics.
“What happened is that year after year, nurses and public sector workers experienced a gradual erosion, thanks to a wage freeze or wage increase of less than 1%,” explained Gavan Gavan Conlon, co-author of the study commissioned by RCN. . “Quite frankly, it is a very horrific situation over such a long period of time.”
In response, the Fair Pay for Nursing campaign is calling for a 5% wage increase above inflation, which is expected to cost nine billion pounds, or nearly $10 billion – a demand the government says is “simply unenforceable”.
The nurses’ strike is expected to significantly disrupt the healthcare system due to the COVID-19 pandemic, severe staffing shortages, and a major underinvestment by the government. The system is currently seeing seven million patients on waiting lists for hospital treatment.
“We are all very grateful for the hard work and dedication of NHS staff, including the nurses, and deeply regret that some union members voted for the strike,” said Steve Barclay, the health secretary, in public comments. statement.
For Summers, the decision to strike was not easy. “I know it is not in the nature of a nurse to strike,” she said, “but I think our voices should be heard.” “I don’t think the general public and the government fully understand that it’s not just about wages. It’s about more than that.”
The young graduate became a fully qualified nurse just two months ago, and it inspired her to take up the profession after witnessing how her grandmother received quality care in hospice care. But soon after she got started, the pressure on nursing became clear and overwhelming, she said. “She was so busy during my first shift inside the shock ward that I remember thinking, ‘What did I push myself into?'” “
“If I had more resources, I could provide higher-quality patient care,” Summers continued.
Demonstrators from the Royal College of Nursing demonstrate outside the Conservative Party conference at the International Criminal Court in Birmingham, England, on October 3.
Rui Vieira- AP
The decision to strike was not light on Siobhan Aston in Scotland either. The 43-year-old woman who has worked as a rehabilitation nurse for nearly a decade has been pushed to cross the line after working in an understaffed COVID-19 ward for the past year.
“It was juggling the department on a daily basis to figure out how to treat patients,” she recalls. On top of that, you’ve had a lot of employees come into contact with the Covid virus, so it was a very stressful time. ”
“I think a lot of what we do is undervalued,” she added, saying all other avenues to get the government to listen to the nurses’ concerns had been exhausted.
last Wednesday Oliver DowdenMinister in the Cabinet Office and Spokesperson for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak, told reporters that the government would strike a balance between the “critical role” of nurses and the financial challenges facing the country, adding that emergency plans were in place for any “staff impact” caused by industrial action, such as the NHS prioritizing the most important services. However, he acknowledged that it would have an impact on other activities, including elective surgery.
But Conlon of London Economics argued that the costs of filling vacancies using temporary staffing agencies were more expensive in the long run than paying better wages for nurses. “It’s a rather shocking extra cost to the treasury, and it’s not worth the loss of the nurses and their institutional expertise,” he said.
Despite supporting the strike, Somers, a young nurse in Derbyshire, is also concerned about the idea of losing income. “I don’t think it will deter me from going on strike, but I know it will have a huge impact on the daily lives of a lot of the nurses,” she said.
However, not closing the pay gap could have worse consequences: “Given that so many people have already left nursing in the past few years, I’d like to stay in the profession because it’s my passion,” she said.
“But if the cost of living continues to rise and nursing pay is not increased in line with that, I may have to consider other options.”
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