Strikes by NHS nurses could begin soon, according to the 106-year-old union, after its members voted for strike action in its ‘historic’ first-ever ballot.
The Royal College of Nursing polled over 300,000 members to see if they supported a strike over pay and working conditions (RCN).
Nurses at over 100 NHS trusts in England voted in favour, and some ambulance trusts and integrated care boards will also strike, with chaos expected to spread throughout the NHS.
All RCN members in Scotland and Northern Ireland supported the strikes, as did all but one health board in Wales.
The union has warned that strikes will kick-off before Christmas and run sporadically until May — spanning around six months.
On strike days, affected hospitals will only provide ‘bank holiday’ service, affecting thousands of patients and causing delays and cancellations for routine treatment ranging from operations to chemotherapy. Emergency care will not be jeopardised.
An NHS executive stated that hospitals will do everything possible to minimise harm to patients,’ but that operations and appointments will be cancelled or postponed.
Ministers have refused to meet the RCN’s pay request of 17% for each nurse, or £6,000 for the average medic earning around £35,000.
The demands, according to No10, would cost the taxpayer £9 billion — equivalent to 6% of NHS England’s total budget — which is simply not deliverable in the current climate.’
New Health Secretary Steve Barclay called the nurses’ strike “disappointing.”
Conservatives have called the action “criminal” and warned that lives will be lost as a result of it.