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Do politicians play on the fact many nurses would feel striking is "abandoning" their patients?

Posted by:

23 June, 2014

When we asked this question last week on twitter, we were stunned by the unanimous “yes!” we received from nurses and other healthcare professionals.



I’ll admit, it was a leading question, but interesting that not one person in the chat argued that politicians don’t take advantage of nurses’ altruistic natures. It seems the coalition government has lost a lot of friends with its move to give nurses a real-time pay cut, while awarding MPs an 11% pay rise.

In his RCN Congress keynote speech, Peter Carter acknowledged nurses’ anger over the government’s decision to ignore the Pay Review Body’s recommendation of a blanket 1% pay rise. But rather than pushing for industrial action, Mr Carter put forward plans to pressure ministers and their shadows through lobbying and protesting. In fact, he urged nurses to consider the consequences of striking and voiced a belief that this option isn’t wanted by the majority: “I would rather set out my stall that when it comes to crunch time, [nurses] are not going to be walking out of wards and leaving patients, they are not going to do it because they are not that type of people”

Cue a flurry of comments on our news story disagreeing strongly:

Don’t you dare, Carter, don’t you dare. Of course we know the consequences of striking.” – Anonymous, 16 June

STRIKE, STRIKE, STRIKE It is all we nurses have left. Please don’t listen to the clap trap from Carter et al at the RCN. They’re in cahoots with Govt.” – Anonymous, 17 June

What a surprise the RCN rolling over AGAIN!!” – Anonymous, 17 June

I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

When we asked nurses on twitter however, many agreed with Peter Carter stating that patient safety comes first and they would never choose to strike. Others accepted this but argued that industrial action with the aim of improving standards would benefit patients and enhance safety in the long-term.

You can see a transcript of the heated discussion here: Should nurses ever strike?

While our twitter followers were split on whether industrial action should be the next move or not, the one thing everyone seemed to agree on was that something needs to happen, and soon. It feels as though nurses have been pushed too far this time and whatever happens next, I strongly suspect Cameron et al are going to regret annoying 400,000 voters in one fell swoop.

Where do you stand on this debate?


Readers' comments (11)

  • Of course they do. Stephen McNeil, Premier of Nova Scotia, ridiculed the mass resignation threat of nurses and states "any organization (nursing organization of Nova Scotia) that has been spending the kind of money that this organization has been spending talking about patient safety, I find it hard to believe that they would walk away and leave vulnerable Nova Scotians at risk". The UK government, the NHS Trusts CEOs are not different. There is the belief that nurses will not take industrial actions and therefore their demands for a better pay structure and a decent pay rise do not need to be taken seriously .

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  • fools the whole lot of you involved. everybody needs to be working together to focus on the highest care for the patients whether you are PM, lowly politician, Punt of the DH, ceo, nurse, porter, hospital engineer, cook, car park attendant, physician, surgeon, medi student or cleaner. you all have one common purpose and who cares except the sick patients who are being fought over and nurses bickering about their pay!

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  • Anonymous | 23-Jun-2014 12:14 pm

    Fair point that patients should come first but the majority of nurses don't need telling - patients are at the centre of everything they do.

    Nurses have a right to a living wage. 'Bickering' isn't the word for this serious debate.

    If nurses can't live on their wage, which is what will happen if things continue, then good nurses will be forced to leave. It's patients who will suffer if this happens.

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  • Anonymous | 23-Jun-2014 4:05 pm

    the biggest fools are the ones right at the very top of the pile who have absolutely no clue about the role of nurses and what they really do.

    unfortunately everybody has to tighten their belts and have a struggle meeting the costs of living and nurses, whilst they work extremely hard, should not expect more than anybody else. there are also many more in other sectors who work very hard for a lot less and have families to support and others who can no longer find a job at all.

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  • tinkerbell

    rather than a race to the bottom where everyone earns less and cannot support their family or pay their bills, we should all be supporting everyone for a decent living wage not suggesting we all accept to settle for less whilst the politicians give themselves an 11% pay rise.

    We should be promoting fairness for ALL not advocating less for everyone. That's why we are not 'all in together', double standards, lead by example so called gov.

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  • Anonymous | 23-Jun-2014 6:06 pm: err no everyone doesn't have to tighten their belts. The people who do are the ones paying for the recklessness and cavalier of those who don't. Yes some people are really struggling, that doesn't mean its helpful to hammer others for expressing their right to a living wage. What would be more kind and helpful would be to demand/campaign for a redistribution of the wealth and raise everyone up to a decent standard of living by those who have vast wealth and those who are not paying their fair share of tax, legally or not.

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  • Of course nurses should strike or else we will continue to be treated with contempt by the government. As someone pointed out earlier, if pay and conditions continue with this race to the bottom, then anyone with a brain cell will leave. That will certainly not improved conditions for patients. In reply to an earlier entry, nurses do not expect more than anyone else, they just want to maintain parity with everyone else. All other publlic sector equivalents i.e. teachers, fire and rescue, police and social workers all have better pay and contitions. Nurses have fallen badly behind, and when the economy picks up any pay increases will be from a low starting point, so the pay gap will widen even further. Wake up you dozy nurses!! Have you not noticed the lack of pay increase whilst prices are increasing every week, not to mention increased pension contributions, necessity to work to 67 before you even get a sniff at a pension, reduced staffing levels, no paid overtime, and to top it all, a MASSIVE reduction in mileage reimbursement for community nurses. Enough is enough. I will go on strike today if asked. Any before anyone comments, yes, I do care about my patients, but I cannot continue to take this s***.

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  • Is there nothing that can be done that will impact negatively on the powers that be and not the patients, for instance filling out things they love to publish to make them look good?

    If not striking what about taking to the streets can student nurses do something after all it is their future too

    If the coverage won't come to the nurses demonstrate at the places the government want coverage there has to be something that can be done I know there are some very clever people out there with ideas that could be backed

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  • how about a counter negative media report on the NHS campaign?

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  • How about voting pro NHS parties in, labour, NHA and greens?

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  • I agree with anonymous who states strongly that we should wake up and realise that every day our living standards are getting lower and lower due to our being the lowest paid profession. The MP's get their pay rise but expect nurses to survive on the pittance they earn. Good nurses who bend over backwards to pay the bills and bring up their children are being made to feel like bad mothers when they can't afford to send them on school trips etc. Worse than that they are also scrimping and saving to do the weekly food shop. Newly qualified nurses earn about £10,000 a year less than firemen, teachers, police and social workers and what are the RCN doing about it? Nothing and that is why I have cancelled my RCN membership. Come on nurses if we go on strike it would be for a matter of seconds and the government would agree immediately to give us a much needed and deserved pay rise but they are taking advantage of our good nature and using blackmail. Shame on you all you politicians who treat nurses this way.

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