01935315031 | office@nursesgroup.co.uk

UK Nurses Strike: Causes and impact on patient

Thousands of nurses in the UK have gone on strike, demanding a pay increase

What are the causes and effects of the UK nurses' strike?

A nursing career is the most challenging and should be the most respected, but their services are frequently undervalued. On December 15, nurses from across the UK went on strike for the first time in the 106-year history of nursing unions. According to news reports, an estimate of 1 lakh nurses from 76 hospitals and health centres participated in the strike, cancelling an estimated 70 thousand appointments.
The strike has affected England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, but not Scotland. However, emergency care and treatment for life-threatening conditions were provided, but regular surgery and other planned treatments are likely to be interrupted during the strike.

Why are nurses on strike?

According to a report by the Nuffield Trust , a charitable trust with the mission of improving healthcare in the UK, the average nurse's salary has not kept pace with inflation or wage increases in the private sector for more than a decade. Before the new pay settlement, typical salaries for nurses had fallen by 5.9% in real terms compared to 2010/11 levels; this compares to a 0.6% real-terms increase in private sector pay over the same period.
According to the Nuffield Trust, real-term pay for nurses will fall around 10% below 2010/11 levels, depending on how inflation changes. The starting salary for registered nurses in England and Wales is £27,055. Since 2012/13, this has increased faster than inflation. It is higher than the average graduate starting salary, which ranges from £24,000 to £26,999.
In the year preceding March 2022 (i.e., prior to the new pay settlement), the average annual NHS salary for a full-time and part-time nurse in England was £35,989. Depending on how it is calculated, the average salary for a full-time job is between £39,900 and £40,500. If nurses' pay had kept pace with inflation, the average nurse would be earning an additional £2,500 annually. The Nuffield Trust predicts an increase to £4,800 in 2022/23, depending on how inflation behaves in the coming months.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) conducted a vote among its members regarding industrial action in a pay dispute. It has been argued that low pay is driving "chronic understaffing" that puts patients at risk and leaves nursing staff overworked, underpaid, and undervalued.
According to the RCN, low compensation, a lack of benefits, unsafe working conditions, and inadequate equipment or resources lead to many nurses leaving the profession, causing a staff shortage, overwork, and compromising the quality of care offered to patients.

Is there really a crisis in the nursing workforce?

1 in 9 NHS nurses in England and Scotland left active service in the last year. A survey by the RCN found that feeling undervalued, being under too much pressure, or feeling exhausted were the common reasons stated by nurses for leaving the nursing profession.
In September, the number of nurses and midwives registered to work in the UK reached a new high of more than 7.7 lakh on the Nursing and Midwifery Council register. Separate NHS Digital figures show that there were nearly 47 thousand full-time equivalent nursing vacancies in England at the end of September, representing a nursing vacancy rate of 11.9%.

What has the RCN asked for?

The RCN requested a 12.5% pay increase in 2020, and it was claimed somewhere during the dispute that nurses wanted a 5% raise above inflation—presumably when inflation was around 7.5%. Despite weeks of negotiating, neither side could reach an agreement, prompting the nurses to decide to extend their strike. The RCN has previously said that despite this year's pay award, experienced nurses are worse off by 20% in real terms due to successive below-inflation pay awards since 2010.

What has been offered?

The independent pay review body recommended that the majority of NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts be given a £1,400 uplift in pay. The Nuffield Trust has estimated that this is the equivalent of an average 4.3% rise for qualified nurses.
In Northern Ireland, nurses will receive the same increase, which will be backdated. In Scotland, a pay offer averaging 7.5% has been accepted by some unions. Fourteen health unions, representing more than a million NHS workers in England, said they would no longer work with the NHS Pay Review Body regarding the 2023–24 pay deal.

What has the UK government done in response to the nurses' strike?

The UK government has accepted the recommendations by the independent NHS Pay Review Body, stating that a 4% increase offered to nurses is fair, and anything more is "not affordable" considering the current economic condition. Further, the UK government has said that nurses received 3% after the pandemic, when several sectors saw hikes frozen. The UK government has stated that they are open to negotiations and that the pay offer is "appropriate and fair."

Impact of nurses' strikes on patients

Perhaps the most controversial issue with the nurses' strike is its effects on patients. The hospital planned to provide weekend or Bank Holiday level care during the strike. The non-urgent operation is postponed, as are outpatient visits and sessions of chemotherapy and kidney dialysis during the strike.
Officials have called planned nursing strikes "unacceptable" because they will have a negative impact on patient care; however, they did not blame the nurses or the union, instead blaming the ministers for their failure to negotiate with the RCN.
NHS executives also stated that they have plans in place to minimise the impact on patients, but warned that the strikes will be a "challenge" for the health service and its leaders. They also stated that they are coping with the demand for nursing staff that is currently on the health service from the public.
It is critical for healthcare settings to prevent further nursing strikes because the strike affects not only hospitals or healthcare facilities but the entire population of the UK. The nursing strike has severely impacted the UK's already overcrowded hospitals. If the nursing strike in the UK continues, this situation will only worsen. Thus, it is important to reach a halfway point to prevent the strike from causing further impacts.

Like our service? Subscribe us