Nurses vote to go on strike: it’s not just about the money

Votes are in, and nurses across the UK have voted to go on strike. In England, that will affect 130 NHS providers, all NHS employers in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and all but one in Wales.

The ballot results come at a time when over 25,000 nursing staff have left the profession, and there are over 47,000 RCN vacancies.

The current pay offer still leaves nurses more than 20% worse off than ten years earlier, and many nurses have a wage that is falling behind the National Living Wage at an increasing rate.

We asked nursing staff how they felt about the most recent pay increase. Here’s a typical answer. “My £1,400 pay rise barely covers my increase in mortgage for one month, let alone childcare and energy prices. Due to childcare costs working extra shifts equates to an additional £10 per MONTH, which doesn’t help with our cost of living and means we don’t get to see our 2-year-old. My in laws are currently helping to pay our mortgage. I am actively looking to move outside of the NHS to be able to improve my family’s quality of life”.

But it’s not just about the money. NHS workers work in an environment where less than half of them feel that the organisation values their work. Less than half feel they are able to meet all the conflicting demands on them. Only a quarter feel there are enough staff and adequate time to allow them to work properly. And a quarter have experienced violence, bullying and harassment. (NHS Staff survey 2021).

The recent pandemic and working environment leaves NHS workers with high levels of stress, leading to a high level of absence due to anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses.

A quote from a nurse from the Royal College of Nursing annual survey sums up the situation: “I have had a long career and seen many changes and challenges but at this point in time morale is the lowest I’ve ever seen it. I have mostly enjoyed my career and been proud of my work but now have been left feeling stressed, unappreciated and vulnerable and my confidence has taken a massive hit, so I’ve made the decision to take early retirement”.

At the Healthcare Workers’ Foundation, we offer counselling services to healthcare workers. If you work in any healthcare setting such as a hospital, nursing home, dental practice, GP surgery or even in the community, you are eligible to access this support. You do not have to be employed by the NHS.