Nurses’ morale has never been so low as they start voting on whether to take industrial action in the ongoing dispute over NHS pay, the government has been warned. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the NHS is reaching a “critical” stage, with staff shortages and nurses leaving the profession.
RCN members handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street on Thursday, with more than 160,000 signatures from nurses, patients and the public calling on the prime minister to deliver fair pay for nursing as part of its campaign against the government’s controversial 3% increase.
Ballot for action
The ballot of RCN members in England and Wales will ask how willing they are to strike or take other forms of action such as working to rule.
Another ballot will have to be held before any action begins. Graham Revie, who chairs the RCN trade union committee, said after handing in the petition:
Nurses have clearly rejected the pay rise as unacceptable and the ballot will find out what they want to do.
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Morale has never been so low among nursing staff. They feel valued by the public, but not by the Government.
The NHS is reaching a critical stage. We do not have enough nurses and we cannot recruit because of poor pay.
Revie also said the RCN has reservations about making it compulsory for NHS staff to have the Covid vaccine, preferring a “carrot to a stick” to deal with the issue.
“Nurses are burnt out”
RCN members have already expressed their anger at the 3% rise offered, with 92% of respondents to an earlier consultative ballot in England describing it as unacceptable.
The RCN said that with inflation forecast to be around 4%, nursing staff are worse off in real terms, warning many are considering leaving the profession.
Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary, said:
At a time when many experienced nurses are burnt out, exhausted and considering leaving the career they love, the link between low pay, staff shortages and patient safety becomes even more stark.
If ministers are serious about building back health and care services, they can start to show it by delivering a proper pay rise for nursing staff.
Our members know it and the public know it. Now it is time for those in Westminster to do the same.
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