Striking nurses blame Brexit for NHS crisis and Britain’s mass walkout

Nurses on strike say Brexit is “definitely” one of the reasons they’ve walked off their wards and onto picket lines. Several nurses outside the University College Hospital (UCH) also stated that if “pushed to that point” by government inaction on pay, they would support an indefinite general strike.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) from 73 NHS trusts across England walked out on February 6 and 7, demanding “a pay award that goes 5% above inflation,” following widespread industrial action by RCN members in December 2022.

NHS nurse Deste Cengiz, who was on an RCN picket line outside UCH, said she “absolutely” supported a cross-industry indefinite strike to force the government to raise wages for “frontline workers, teachers, train drivers, all of us.”

“It’s just essential jobs and careers… we’re helping people get better, we’re educating the young, we’re helping people get from A to B,” she explained. 

“Everything simply needs to be present, but we are overlooked. This is about the injustice of it all… we want to be recognised for the work we do.”

A general strike, according to UCH Nurse Joanna, is “the only way” the government will grant inflation-busting pay increases. Jeff, a Westmoreland Street Hospital nurse, agreed, saying he “probably would” support indefinite multi-sector strike if “pushed to that point.”

Nurses on the picket line were not only concerned with the prospect of a general strike.  Some also claimed that part of the reason they were on strike was due to staff shortages caused by Brexit. 

“We had several nurses who were from abroad and they went back home because of Brexit,” said nursing assistant Helena. According to more nurses, Brexit has “definitely” contributed to the growing list of NHS vacancies, which includes more than 46,000 nursing positions.

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