Nurse strike ‘inevitable’ this winter, says union leader in response to government

·2-min read
Pat Cullen, the RCN’s general secretary and chief executive, previously said nursing staff have led the Covid-19 vaccination programme (PA Wire)
Pat Cullen, the RCN’s general secretary and chief executive, previously said nursing staff have led the Covid-19 vaccination programme (PA Wire)

The Royal College of Nursing has warned that strikes are “inevitable” this winter unless the Government does not increase pay to be in-line with inflation.

The union’s half a million members have shown broad support for industrial action, with general secretary Pat Cullen accusing prime ministerial hopefuls Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak of being “out of touch with reality”.

She said their limited time discussing services during their debates is seeing them “sleepwalk” into a winter of NHS strikes, with doctors and other health workers also gearing up for walkouts.

It is all in response to the planned pay increase of 4-5 per cent with inflation heading for 13 per cent. Ms Cullen said she would organise with unions to ensure that emergency services could be kept running.

The Royal College of Nursing has only taken strike action once since its founding in 1916 and at a vote last year decided against walkouts.

The union is likely to decide on whether to take action at the result of the ballot in October.

Ms Cullen told reporters that she had never felt “such despair and anger” in her 42 years as a nurse.

She added: “It seems to be that the only way to get this government to listen is to take action and very severe action at that.”

Both Conservative Party leadership candidates have both largely agreed the NHS has enough money but needs structural reform.

Mr Sunak has said he would make cutting waiting lists his top priority and pledged to create a vaccine-style taskforce to “cut bureaucracy and waste”. He said he will also introduce £10 fines for anyone missing appointments.

Meanwhile, Ms Truss promised to appoint a “strong” health secretary to tackle backlogs and pay for previously announced funding increases, despite her tax cuts.

Both have also vowed to take a firm line on dealing with unions.