RCN strikes live: Nurses on the picket line in fight for fair pay – Nursing Times

‘This is a situation that cannot go on indefinitely’
15 December, 2022 By , , and
Source:&nbsp Wilde Fry
Thousands of members of the Royal College of Nursing are going out on strike today in a dispute over pay and working conditions.
Strike action is planned across almost 80 employers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and is set to involve up to 100,000 nursing staff.
It is the first of two strike days scheduled in December by the RCN, with the second due to take place on 20 December.
The dispute is centred on nurses’ and unions’ anger over the below-inflation pay awards issued this year to NHS staff and connected issues of poor staffing and workplace pressures.
Follow this story for live updates throughout the day as Nursing Times heads to the picket line to hear from those fighting for change.
The RCN has released an end-of-day statement wrapping up the day of strikes.
In it, RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: “Today will be a turning point in the campaign for fair nursing pay. At the end of it, ministers find themselves under fresh pressure from unexpected places – their own MPs, NHS leaders and a former chair of the pay review body.
“Each of these groups, for different reasons, wants the government to stop hiding behind its current fig leaf.
“On a bitterly cold day, the public warmth towards nursing staff was immense. For my members, this has been about professional pride, not personal hardship – speaking up for nursing, patients and the future of the NHS.”
Meanwhile, England CNO Ruth May posted a video on her Twitter calling for a “resolution as soon as possible” to the pay dispute.
The NHS Confederation has issued a statement about the strikes today and how health services coped. Here is the statement in full:
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The first RCN strike has gone as expected, with the NHS being able to maintain safe staffing levels across key services for patients and making sure that urgent and life-saving care have been prioritised.
“This is thanks to the cooperation between the union representatives, nurses and NHS organisations at local levels, which health leaders hope will continue next week.
“It is disappointing that some non-urgent and routine appointments and services have had to be either postponed or scaled down in the 44 NHS trusts in England where the RCN has focused its strike action in December. Patient safety and staffing the most critical services has had to be the number one priority.
“No health leader wanted to be in this situation and the strikes could have been avoided had the government attempted to find more common ground with the RCN on pay. The government cannot just sit back and let future strikes happen when patient care is on the line.
“The worry is that this is just the start, that strikes possibly being planned for January could be more severe and coordinated across the different unions, and that we could be in a position of stalemate for the foreseeable future. This benefits no one and the government must act.”
Time pressures and short staffing mean basic patient care, like teeth-brushing, is being missed, Nursing Times has been told.
Nursing associate Sagila Thiruthanikasalan, who works in general surgery and was taking part in the pay strikes today, said patient wellbeing was suffering because of staff workload.

Sagila Thiruthanikasalan
“You manage to do the most important thing; so, for example, making sure the patient’s medications are given… those kinds of things are done,” said Ms Thiruthanikasalan.
“But it’s the little bits of TLC that help in recovery. Brushing teeth; we don’t have time to brush teeth. How ridiculous is that?”
Full story here.
Nursing Times editor Steve Ford has shared his views on the RCN strike action today.
“I applaud all nurses and their leaders who have found themselves having to fight their corner in this way, while ministers are blithely able to push out the same stock phrases”
Read the full piece here.
Responding to rumours that have circulated about the NHS Pay Review Body being reconvened, in wake of the strike action seen today, Unison head of health Sara Gorton warned that “a wage boost is needed now, not months down the line”.
She said: “Health workers won’t have any confidence in a repeat of the process that’s failed to deliver for them, the NHS or patients so far.
“Ministers are hiding behind the pay review body to wriggle out of any responsibility for the mess they’ve created.”
She added: “The only solution to the current unrest is for proper and genuine pay talks between the government and unions. Only then can the worsening crisis in the NHS be tackled.”
Nurses gathered in their hundreds today outside St Thomas’ Hospital.
Hannah Peters, a staff nurse, described how nurses had been “forced” onto the picket line, for not being properly renumerated for the work they did during the coronavirus pandemic.
She said: “We’re just saying: listen to us and take our demands seriously, sit around the table with us and we’ll get to some agreement at some point.

Hannah Peters
“But to not listen to us at all is just a slap in the face after everything we did during Covid.”
Also on strike was Mikko, a wound care clinical nurse specialist, who spoke with passion and upset when he said the government “don’t understand what nurses are having to go through every day” to try and look after patients’ safely.
Joining RCN members on the picket line were nurses belonging to unions which did not obtain a strike mandate in London, such as GMB and Unison.
Janet Maiden, a deputy sister and Unison chair at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said she was “totally amazed and in awe” at the number of RCN branches that had achieved the 50% turnout threshold required in a ballot for a lawful strike.
Reflecting on the fact that Unison only achieved a mandate at two hospitals in England, Ms Maiden said nurses “are genuinely gutted and devastated”.
She said: “We’re angry and distressed, but it doesn’t mean we have given up on the fight, as that is why we are supporting things like this today.”
Read more here.
Nurses are “in poverty” and need to see significant improvements to their pay, the president-elect of the Royal College of Nursing has warned.
Speaking from a picket line today in London, Sheila Sobrany told Nursing Times that she was attending the strikes in her personal time to show “solidarity” with nursing staff everywhere.

Sheila Sobrany joining the strikes
She said nurses were “really struggling” right now, both financially due to the cost-of-living crisis and pay levels, and emotionally due to the pressures in the system and short staffing.
Nurses needed to receive a pay rise “significantly above the inflation rate”, she said. “Fair pay makes a lot of difference to lives.”
Read the full interview here.
At Royal Berkshire, nurses described the mood on the picket line as “inspirational” and “empowering”.
Sarah Lupai, clinical nurse specialist for enteral nutrition, who is also the trust’s ethnically diverse patients experience facilitator, said strike action was “overdue”.
“It’s all about getting paid for what we deserve,” she said. But equally, it was also about staff retention and patient safety, she told Nursing Times.

From left, Sarah Lupai and Shirley Ann Ford
She said she had recently discouraged her daughter from becoming a nurse because of poor conditions for the profession.
“With the [cost of living] crisis, a lot of our colleagues are using food banks. Why should we be at that stage? It is crazy,” said Ms Lupai.
“Nurses will always be needed, so at least make that environment pleasant to work in [and] safe.”
Shirley Ann Ford, senior staff nurse in endoscopy, echoed that while she was striking “because of pay”, it was also about “declining patient safety”.
“There are a lot more nurse vacancies, so therefore we are very stretched,” she told Nursing Times.
“The government isn’t acknowledging that and it has been going on for several years now.”

Arran Rogers
Separately, Arran Rogers, senior nursing informatics officer at the trust, said: “I’m striking today for better pay and conditions for the future of our nursing and our NHS.
“I’m really trying to send a message to our government that constant underfunding and reduced pay and conditions has meant that we’ve got such a huge vacancy factor in our nursing workforce and moving forward that affects patient care.”
Read more about the Reading strikes here. 
The Nursing and Midwifery Council has highlighted its position statement on industrial action, as the RCN’s day of strikes continues.
It states that nursing and midwifery professionals “have the right to take part in lawful industrial action, including strike action” and that the NMC would not take fitness to practise action against a nurse solely on the basis of going on strike.
The position statement adds that staff are still expected to behave in line with the NMC Code when out on the picket line.
Read the full statement here.
Meanwhile, Nursing Times reporter Megan Ford has arrived at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading where nurses have spoken to her about their concerns about staff shortages and their impact on patients and colleagues.
I’m here at Royal Berkshire Hospital where nurses are striking for fair pay and patient safety. Many nurses have told me of their concerns of staff shortages and the impact this is having on their patients and colleagues #Nursestrikes #FairPayforNursing pic.twitter.com/IptBhsN1PH
— Megan Ford (@Megan_Ford97) December 15, 2022

The health correspondent at The Times spoke to England CNO Ruth May at St Thomas’ earlier today and quotes Ms May as saying that she supported striking nurses and that she urged “the government to work with the RCN and other unions to make sure they get a resolution on pay”.
Some nurses on social media have expressed surprise at Ms May’s attendence at the picket line and her comments, following a letter issued by the UK CNOs this week raising concern about patient safety and strikes.
Read more about the letter here: 
England’s chief nurse Dame Ruth May has just turned up on the picket line here outside St Thomas’s hospital.
She says she supports striking nurses and ministers must reach an “urgent resolution” with the nursing union over pay. pic.twitter.com/1noN2IVH0y
— Eleanor Hayward (@eleanorhayward) December 15, 2022

Nursing Times reporter Ella Devereux has arrived to a well-attended picket line at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. There have been reports that England chief nursing officer Ruth May has been at the picket.
It’s a historic day for nursing today.
I am here reporting from the picket line outside St Thomas’ hospital, just a stone’s throw away from Westminster.
The biggest strike in the the history of the NHS is taking place, with thousands of @theRCN members on the picket line. pic.twitter.com/NDGFFgpUBn
— Ella Devereux (@Ella_Devereux) December 15, 2022

More chants from St Mary’s as nurses brace the cold.
Nurses brace the cold to get their voices heard #FairPayforNursing #RCNStrike pic.twitter.com/MKzW5QnF5X
— Gemma Mitchell (@gemmamitchell92) December 15, 2022

New RCN president elect Sheila Sobrany was at the picket line and spoke to Nursing Times about how nurses were “in poverty”. More on her comments later.
At St Mary’s Hospital in west London, nurses are chanting on the picket line. Members of the public can be seen speaking with those on strike. Nursing Times reporter Gemma Mitchell is at the scene.
Chants from the picket at St Mary’s Hospital #FairPayforNursing #RCNStrike pic.twitter.com/GNicrN2PIG
— Gemma Mitchell (@gemmamitchell92) December 15, 2022

This morning Pat Cullen told BBC breakfast that if the health secretary Steve Barclay “stops digging in”, then the union will be willing to negotiate.
“We will come to the table and we will be realistic, we’ll be reasonable and we’ll talk to him” – Pat Cullen
This call comes as talks to avert strike action have fallen flat between government leaders and the RCN this week.
You can read more about these talks here:
Here is the former Conservative Party chairman Jake Berry, telling TalkTV that the government “is going to have to improve its offer” on nurses pay.
“I can tell you that the government offer is too low.”
Former Conservative Party chairman Jake Berry says the government “is going to have to improve its offer” on nurses pay.
@tnewtondunn | @JakeBerry pic.twitter.com/Xx3U1TNB17
— First Edition (@FirstEdition) December 14, 2022

Nurses on the picket line at Weston-Super-Mare have been chanting for patient safety this morning.
Picket line at Weston-Super-Mare chanting our request for safer staffing #uhbwNHS #RCN #rcnstrike pic.twitter.com/qMIg5gvypn
— sue sturman (@suesturman2) December 15, 2022

RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen has started the strike day with a post on social media praising the “courage” of nurses who are walking out today and criticising the government for “leaving [nurses] out in the cold”.
Ms Cullen is set to join staff on a number of different picket lines around the UK throughout the day, with her first stop being St Thomas’ Hospital in London.
Early morning temperatures in London are at around -5C.
As I prepare to join many picket lines today, To all our nursing staff-I have utmost respect for you. Your courage to stand up and be heard for your patients will not be ignored. Shame on this Govt for leaving you out in the cold. 1st stop St Thomas Hsp. See you there colleagues
— pat cullen (@patcullen9) December 15, 2022

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