Nurses who went on strike today say they hope their action has raised public awareness of the dangers posed to the health service of failing to give staff a real terms pay rise.
NHS workers in England took to picket lines this morning for a four-hour strike, after the government rejected a recommended 1% blanket pay increase – a move labelled as “offensive” by some strikers.
Striking nurses and midwives called for more recognition for the work that they do, which they want to see materialised through a pay rise.
“We have given so many more extra hours to the NHS with absolutely no recognition whatsoever”
Without an improvement in salaries and the resulting low morale among staff, there could be risks to the NHS including an ill workforce, inferior service and further problems in recruiting workers, union members warned.
Nurses said they hoped the strike action would highlight to the general public the conditions that healthcare staff worked under and the financial difficulties some were now facing.
Rose Minty-Tutto, a nurse and Unison branch secretary at St Ann’s Hospital in North London today, said: “I have worked for the NHS for 38 years. It’s a disgrace. I can’t afford to live anymore.
“I am hoping the strike will raise awareness in the public. We need to do something to stop the NHS being sold off,” she told Nursing Times.
“It’s not looking for a prize, it’s just looking for a decent wage”
Karen Buonaiuto, a paediatric nurse at the same hospital, said: “We are going on strike today to spread awareness about the NHS being targeted unfairly and even more so the staff – people who are already very poorly paid, and with nurses often working double shifts.”
She added: “We have given so many more extra hours to the NHS with absolutely no recognition whatsoever. And then to add insult to injury our salaries are being capped.
Ms Buonaiuto said she was concerns that young people would be put off entering the nursing profession due to the prospect of low pay and lack of recognition.
“If that were to happen, I worry that patients would be given a massively inferior service. We have the best service in the world and sometimes I don’t think public understand what we stand to lose if cuts continue to be made to the workforce,” she said.
Simon Spencer, a band 6 community mental health nurse at Camden’s early intervention service, said workers were looking for basic recognition.
“I would like to think our patients would support our action because they receive a good service,” he said.
“But it’s that tipping point of how far can that good service continue without some recognition – and it’s a very basic recognition, it’s not looking for a prize, it’s just looking for a decent wage,” he added.
“We’ve had tremendous public support and in spite of the rain”
Claire Dixon, Unison branch secretary at Whittington Health NHS Trust, where around 30 protesters had gathered, noted that health workers “don’t take strike action lightly”.
“We’ve had tremendous public support and in spite of the rain,” she added.