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Why are nurses striking and how will it affect hospital care? | Nursing

Why are nurses striking and how will it affect hospital care? | Nursing

Nurses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are staging their first national strikes on Thursday.

Why are nurses striking?

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) balloted its members over industrial action in a dispute over pay. It has argued that low pay is driving “chronic understaffing” that puts patients at risk and leaves nursing staff overworked, underpaid and undervalued.

Is there really a crisis in the workforce?

The number of nurses and midwives registered to work in the UK has grown to a record level – 771,445 were on the Nursing and Midwifery Council register in September. But separate figures from NHS Digital show there were a record 47,496 full-time equivalent nursing vacancies in England at the end of September, representing a vacancy rate of 11.9{33c86113bcc32821f63c6372852a0f501e07fff55ce3ce61b15b246c5f8c531c}.

How many nurses will be on strike?

Tens of thousands of nurses are to take part – originally it was anticipated that up to 100,000 would strike but this figure changed due to the various “derogations” that have occurred in recent weeks where nurses have agreed to provide certain services during strike days.

When will the strikes take place?

The strikes are scheduled for Thursday 15 December and Tuesday 20 December, although not all organisations are taking part on both days.

What happens if I’m sick?

People who need emergency or urgent care will still get help. The strikes will affect other elements of care but people will have been contacted in advance to be told of changes to planned care and encouraged to attend appointments unless they have been instructed otherwise. GP surgeries and pharmacies will be running as normal.

What has the Royal College of Nursing asked for?

The RCN asked for a 12.5{33c86113bcc32821f63c6372852a0f501e07fff55ce3ce61b15b246c5f8c531c} increase in pay in 2020. Somewhere during the dispute it was claimed that nurses wanted a “5{33c86113bcc32821f63c6372852a0f501e07fff55ce3ce61b15b246c5f8c531c} above inflation rise” – presumably when inflation was 7.5{33c86113bcc32821f63c6372852a0f501e07fff55ce3ce61b15b246c5f8c531c} or thereabouts.

So what has been offered?

An independent pay review body recommended that the majority of NHS staff on so-called Agenda for Change contracts are to be given a £1,400 rise in pay. The Nuffield Trust has estimated that this is the equivalent to an average of 4.3{33c86113bcc32821f63c6372852a0f501e07fff55ce3ce61b15b246c5f8c531c} rise for qualified nurses. The RCN has previously said that despite this year’s pay award, experienced nurses are worse off by 20{33c86113bcc32821f63c6372852a0f501e07fff55ce3ce61b15b246c5f8c531c} in real terms due to successive below inflation awards since 2010.

What has the government said?

The government accepted the recommendation by the pay review body and it has said that union demands are “not affordable” in the current economic climate, saying each additional 1{33c86113bcc32821f63c6372852a0f501e07fff55ce3ce61b15b246c5f8c531c} pay rise for all Agenda for Change staff would cost about £700m a year. But the pay review body estimates that each 1{33c86113bcc32821f63c6372852a0f501e07fff55ce3ce61b15b246c5f8c531c} increase in pay adds about £500m to the Agenda for Change pay bill in England, £29.5m in Northern Ireland and £37.5m in Wales.

The Department of Health and Social Care said that, using October’s RPI inflation data, a 5{33c86113bcc32821f63c6372852a0f501e07fff55ce3ce61b15b246c5f8c531c} above inflation rise would equate to a pay rise of 19.2{33c86113bcc32821f63c6372852a0f501e07fff55ce3ce61b15b246c5f8c531c}. It said that increasing pay for all staff on Agenda for Change contracts – which also includes staff such as midwives, ambulance workers, porters and cleaners – by 19.2{33c86113bcc32821f63c6372852a0f501e07fff55ce3ce61b15b246c5f8c531c}, instead of the existing pay award, would cost “around an additional £10bn”.

Officials have said that this would hamper the NHS’s efforts in tackling the record backlog of care. But the RCN has not specifically asked for a 19.2{33c86113bcc32821f63c6372852a0f501e07fff55ce3ce61b15b246c5f8c531c} pay increase.

A separate pay offer has been made in Scotland.

What has the NHS said?

Officials in England have said they would like to see a resolution to the dispute as soon as possible “but pay is a matter for the government and the trade unions”.

Where will the strikes take place?

Not every hospital will be affected by strike action. Here is the official list of trusts and NHS organisations taking part, released by the RCN:


East Midlands

Kettering general hospital NHS foundation trust

NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICB

Northamptonshire healthcare NHS foundation trust

Nottingham University hospitals NHS trust

Nottinghamshire healthcare NHS foundation trust


Cambridge University hospital NHS foundation trust

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS foundation trust

Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS trust

Hertfordshire Community NHS trust

NHS Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB

Royal Papworth hospital NHS foundation trust


Great Ormond Street hospital for Children NHS foundation trust

Guys and St Thomas NHS foundation trust

Imperial College healthcare NHS trust

NHS North Central London ICB

Royal Marsden NHS foundation trust

North West

Alder Hey Children’s NHS foundation trust

Liverpool heart and chest hospital NHS foundation trust

Liverpool University Hospitals NHS foundation trust

Liverpool Women’s NHS foundation trust

Mersey Care NHS foundation trust

The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS foundation trust

The Walton Centre NHS foundation trust


Gateshead Health NHS foundation trust

Northumbria healthcare NHS foundation trust

The Newcastle Upon Tyne hospitals NHS foundation trust

South East

Oxford Health NHS foundation trust

Oxford University hospitals NHS foundation trust

Royal Berkshire NHS foundation trust

South West

Devon Partnership NHS trust

Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS foundation trust

Gloucestershire hospitals NHS foundation trust

Great Western hospitals NHS foundation trust

NHS Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire ICB (BSW Together)

NHS Devon ICB (One Devon)

NHS Gloucestershire ICB (One Gloucestershire)

North Bristol NHS trust

Royal Devon University healthcare NHS foundation trust

Royal United hospitals Bath NHS foundation trust

Torbay and South Devon NHS foundation trust

University hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS oundation trust

University hospitals Plymouth NHS trust

West Midlands

Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS foundation trust

Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS trust

NHS Birmingham and Solihull ICB (BSol ICB)

The Royal Orthopaedic hospital NHS foundation trust

University hospitals Birmingham NHS foundation trust

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS trust

Yorkshire & Humber

Bradford teaching hospitals NHS foundation trust

Leeds community healthcare NHS trust

The Leeds teaching hospitals NHS trust

National employers

Health Education England

NHS England

Northern Ireland

Belfast health and social care trust

Northern health and social care trust

Western health and social care trust

Southern health and social care trust

South Eastern health and social care trust

Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council

Business Services Organisation

Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority

Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service

Public Health Agency

Northern Ireland ambulance service


Cardiff and Vale University health board

Powys Teaching local health board

Welsh ambulance services NHS trust headquarters

Hywel Dda University health board

Swansea Bay University health board

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University health board

Betsi Cadwaladr University local health board

Velindre NHS trust

Public Health Wales

Health Education and Improvement Wales Health Authority

NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership

Digital Health and Care Wales