Britain’s largest nursing union will poll hundreds of thousands of its members today over strike action, the biggest ballot in its 106-year history.
The Royal College of Nursing union is campaigning for a pay rise of five per cent above inflation, which currently stands at 9.9 per cent – the highest in around 40-years.
Around 300,000 nurses across England, Scotland and Wales will be balloted. The strike must win the favour of at least 50 per cent of union members to go ahead.
The ballot will close 2 November, and the result will be announced soon after.
When asked whether the strike would be an act of desperation on BBC Breakfast this morning, Pat Cullen, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “It probably is.
“When you feel that our government has turned its back on the people that carried us through the pandemic, the people that this government stood on doorsteps and clapped for. Now it’s almost as if they’re invisible… the government seems to have turned its back on nursing.”
The National Health Service (NHS) is already bracing for winter, with officials cautious of a possible resurgence in Covid-19 cases, which could overwhelm already stretched services.
In July, ministers handed around 1.4m nurses, doctors and midwives a £1,400 pay rise – the equivalent of between four and 4.8 per cent, before factoring in inflation.
“Patient care is at risk because of chronic staff shortages, but nursing staff can’t afford to join or stay in the profession,” Cullen said in a statement on behalf of the union.
“There are tens of thousands of unfilled nursing jobs across the UK. Unless governments start to value and pay nursing staff properly, there will be a further exodus, adding more pressure to an overstretched system.”