A profession left with no other option
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A profession left with no other option

Flavia Munn Editor, Nursing Standard

How are you feeling about work right now – exhausted, demoralised, undervalued? You are not alone.

Nursing Standard. 37, 10, 5-5. doi: 10.7748/ns.37.10.5.s1

Published: 05 October 2022

From 6 October, the RCN will ballot nursing staff in England, Wales and Scotland on taking strike action over their government’s poor pay offer. Nurses in Northern Ireland are yet to be offered a pay increase, but will still join the ballot.

Many union members are saying they have never considered taking action before, but now feel they have no other choice.

Among those voting ‘yes’ in the ballot are two recipients of the RCN Nurse of the Year award, the current title holder Nicola Bailey and 2020’s Ana Waddington. In heart-wrenching accounts written for Nursing Standard they describe how they have been driven to despair by the pressures of working in the NHS they love, and why they think they must stand up for better pay for nurses and support for patients. Their words could be any nurse’s. They represent how nursing professionals have been pushed to the brink.

The new prime minister and health and social care secretary have only reinforced the feeling that government does not understand nursing, with the former dismissing nurses’ use of food banks and the latter failing to list the NHS’s largest staffing group as a priority.

Yet the government underestimates nurses and public support for action at its peril. Recent polling by YouGov showed 64% of those questioned support nurses going on strike and three quarters feel there are not enough nurses (hardly a surprise, with nurse vacancies at 47,000 in England alone).

Nurses in Northern Ireland went on strike in 2019, while still maintaining patient safety, and ultimately won pay parity and a commitment to safe staffing. This time, the RCN’s strike fund will ensure any nurse left out of pocket due to their participation will receive £50 per strike day, from the first day of action.

This won’t be an easy fight, but to nurses like Ana Waddington and Nicola Bailey continuing on the present course looks a lot worse.

See news, page 7 and comment, page 8

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