‘Enough is Enough’: Nurses in UK to go on strike for first time in history

More than 300,000 union members will walk out over pay, adding to pressure on the country’s health system.

The NHS provides free healthcare at point of use but is under immense pressure [File: Toby Melville/Reuters]

Tens of thousands of nurses in the United Kingdom will go on strike for the first time demanding better pay as the cost of living soars.

Nurses at most of the state-run National Health Service (NHS) employers across the country have voted for the action, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said on Wednesday.

The RCN, which has more than 300,000 members, said industrial action would begin before the end of the year, after the first vote on strike action in its 106-year-old history.

“Anger has become action – our members are saying enough is enough,” RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen said in a statement. “This action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses. Standards are falling too low.”

NHS nurses have seen their salaries drop by up to 20 percent in real terms over the last 10 years, leaving members struggling to feed their families and pay their bills, the RCN has said.

The union is asking for a pay rise of 5 percent above inflation.

NHS bosses said in September nurses were skipping meals to feed and clothe their children and were struggling to afford rising transport costs.

One in four hospitals has set up food banks to support staff, according to NHS Providers, which represents hospital groups in England.

The UK has seen a wave of industrial unrest this year across industries from railways to the law as pay fails to keep up with inflation, running at 10 percent, and surging energy costs.

The strike action threatens significant disruption to health system already strained by persistent government underinvestment, the COVID-19 pandemic and a severe shortage of staff.

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