Hong Kong News

Nonpartisan, Noncommercial, unconstrained.
Sunday, Feb 25, 2024

British nurses launch historic strike, as pay and staffing crises threaten NHS

British nurses launch historic strike, as pay and staffing crises threaten NHS

Nurses across much of the UK launched a historic strike on Thursday, as they walked out of hospitals and onto picket lines after several years of falling pay and declining standards left the country’s nationalized health care system in a state of crisis.
As many as 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) – the UK’s biggest nursing union – are taking industrial action in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in the latest and most unprecedented of a wave of strikes that has swept Britain this winter. It is the largest strike in the RCN’s 106-year history.

But it comes after several years of hardship for employees of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), a revered but beleaguered institution that is straining due to staffing shortfalls, sky-high demand and stretched funding.

“I went into nursing to care for patients, and over the years my capacity to provide the level of care my patients deserve has been compromised,” Andrea Mackay, who has worked as a nurse for seven years at a hospital in southwest England, told CNN on her reasons for striking Thursday.

“The reality is, every day, nurses across the UK are walking into understaffed hospitals,” Mackay said. “The NHS has been running on the compassion and goodwill of nurses for years ... It is unsustainable.”

“It’s about paying staff what they’re worth so they can pay the bills,” Jessie Collins, a pediatric nurse preparing to join the strike, told CNN, adding that staffing pressures have crippled the emergency department she regularly works in. “During one of my worst shifts I was the only nurse to 28 unwell children ... it’s not safe and we cannot deliver the care that these children need at times,” she said.

Pamela Jones, on the picket line outside Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool, told PA Media: “I’m striking today because I’ve been nursing for 32 years; within those 32 years the changes have been astronomical.

“I feel really sorry for the young girls who are now trying to get into the profession, they have to pay for their training. The public need to understand the pressures that everyone’s under. You’ve only got to come into A&E and see the queues, there’s no beds.

“We want to save our NHS, we don’t want it to go, and I think this is the way forward, it’s the only way we can put our point across. We don’t want to be here. I was really torn about striking because it’s not something I’ve ever, ever thought in my lifetime I’d ever had to do, but yet the government has pushed us to this.”

She added: “I hope the government listens, because none of us want to be here, we just want a fair pay rise.”

The strike is taking place on two days – Thursday and next Tuesday – and not every NHS Trust will take part. But it marks one of the most dramatic uses of industrial action in the 74-year history of the NHS, and has intensified debate over the state of Britain’s public services.

The RCN is calling for a pay rise of 5% above retail inflation, which on current figures amounts to a 19% hike, and for the government to fill a record number of staff vacancies that, it argues, is jeopardizing patient safety. Steve Barclay, the UK’s health secretary, told CNN in a statement earlier this week that their demand is “not affordable.”

The standoff follows years of disputes over the level of pay for NHS employees. Nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year between 2010 and 2017 once inflation was taken into account, according to the Health Foundation, a UK charity that campaigns for better health and health care. For the first three of those years, their pay was frozen.

The number of patients waiting for care has meanwhile sky-rocketed, a years-long trend that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

A record 7.2 million people in England – more than one in eight residents – are currently waiting for treatment, according to the British Medical Association. Seven years ago, the figure was 3.3 million.

“I work alongside some amazing (nurses) who have come in early, left late, worked through breaks and lunch, agreed to come in on their days off for an overtime shift to make sure their patients are kept as safe as we can manage,” Mackay told CNN.

“I don’t have all the answers and I understand that there is a limit to the money available, but unless the government prioritize health, patient safety, (and) strengthening the workforce then the NHS is going to collapse,” she said.

The NHS, which is free at the point of care, forms a central part of Britain’s national psyche and third rail of the country’s politics. During the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of Britons stood outside their homes to applaud NHS workers, in a weekly ritual championed by the government.

But that has since been criticized as an empty gesture by disgruntled employees, who say the government’s pay offers to staff have not represented the same spirit.

Earlier this year, the RCN rejected an offer by the government to increase nurses’ pay by a minimum of £1,400 ($1,707) a year, which amounted to an average rise of 4.3%, well below the rate of inflation.

“I have nursed patients who can remember life before the NHS. They know how precious it is because they have seen what went before,” Mackay said.

Labour leader Keir Starmer attacked Rishi Sunak on the strike during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, telling him that “the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief” if he halted the strike by striking a deal with the RCN.

The industrial action was a “a badge of shame for this government,” Starmer said.

Most of the nurses taking part in Thursday’s action will be striking for the first time in their lives. But they are joining workers across Britain’s public services in walking out of work and demanding increased pay and conditions, furthering a swelling tide of strikes unlike any seen in the UK for decades.

Employees on Britain’s railways, buses, highways and borders are taking industrial action this month, bringing various forms of travel essentially to a standstill. Teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers and paramedics are all also due to strike in December.

It has left the government scrambling to respond. Members of Britain’s armed forces were being trained to drive ambulances and firefight in the event of strike action, ministers said earlier this month. On Tuesday, the Police Federation said it opposed a request to have police officers drive ambulances.

And unions have threatened more action in the New Year when a cost-of-living crisis that has clouded Britain in recent months is expected to worsen still.

A total of 417,000 working days were lost to strikes in October, the most recent month for which figures are available, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). That is the highest number for any month since 2011.

The impact of those strikes has led parts of the British media to rekindle memories of the so-called Winter of Discontent in 1978 and 1979, when demonstrations brought the UK to a standstill – though this year’s level of industrial action constitutes a fraction of those months, where several million working days were lost.

Sunak has been accused by opposition parties of refusing to negotiate with unions in good faith, and not doing enough to prevent strikes from going ahead.

But the ongoing disputes are a thorny issue for both major parties. Labour – a party with strong historic links to trades unions – has been walking a tightrope, urging the government to do more but refusing to explicitly support the demands of picketers.
Newsletter

Related Articles

Hong Kong News
0:00
0:00
Close
It's always the people with the dirty hands pointing their fingers
Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Steve Jobs' Son Launches Venture Capital Firm With $200 Million For Cancer Treatments
Google reshuffles Assistant unit, lays off some staffers, to 'supercharge' products with A.I.
End of Viagra? FDA approved a gel against erectile dysfunction
UK sanctions Russians judges over dual British national Kara-Murza's trial
US restricts visa-free travel for Hungarian passport holders because of security concerns
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Political leader from South Africa, Julius Malema, led violent racist chants at a massive rally on Saturday
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
'I am not your servant': IndiGo crew member, passenger get into row over airline meal
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Spanish Citizenship Granted to Iranian chess player who removed hijab
US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell freezes up, leaves press conference
Speaker McCarthy says the United States House of Representatives is getting ready to impeach Joe Biden.
San Francisco car crash
This camera man is a genius
3D ad in front of Burj Khalifa
Next level gaming
BMW driver…
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.
×