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Speak up, we can’t hear you


Would you strike? Or are you vehemently opposed to taking any industrial action – whatever the circumstances? 

The Royal College of Nursing pay ballot has gone live, and with just a few days left to make your voice heard, only 10% of nurses who are eligible to vote have made their feelings known.

The topic I am most asked to present on at conferences, talk about and generally explain is how nurses can get their voices heard.

It is a valid point – no one ever seems to dismiss the medics, and yet nurses are often marginalised or ignored by their colleagues, the media and senior executives.

“Any confidence nurses once had that things will change have been eroded”

It is, of course, therefore understandable if you feel a bit apathetic and that nothing is worth saying or doing. Any confidence nurses once had that things will change have been eroded by the government’s actions over the past few years – its refusal to put more than a 1% increase on NHS pay or comprehend the imminent dangers with the workforce shortage.

But I urge you not to give up.

I hope that every member will make their voice heard in the RCN pay poll.

This poll is asking around 270,000 RCN members if and what kind of industrial action they would take in response to the latest below-inflation pay award.

But so far, as mentioned above, only 10% of those eligible have answered the poll.

To me, this feels something of a shame because it is important for the profession and the college to understand the views of all members.

“Who is happy to just accept the 1% and move on without a fight?”

Who would be prepared to strike, who would feel this contravened their very reason for entering the profession? Who would work only their contracted hours, but not go out on the picket line and who would be prepared to refuse to take on the duties of a higher pay band? Who is happy to just accept the 1% and move on without a fight?

I know with the last general election only a couple of years back, then Brexit, the local elections and now another snap general election in June, some of you are getting voting fatigue, but the hidden danger of all this lies in apathy.

The issue of action over pay is an important one and now is an important time to be heard.

Often the RCN comes under fire for not being strong enough in taking action on behalf of its members, and this poll would be a good way of genuinely understanding how big the appetite is for action among the profession.

“How much more powerful would it be to find out the real facts and figures behind the issue?”

Those who strongly oppose striking might just say nothing, and think that their point has been made, but how much more powerful would it be to find out the real facts and figures behind the issue?

We can hypothesise that only a militant few are prepared to take action or that nurses are basically opposed to any kind of industrial demonstration? But wouldn’t it be better to actually know?

I hope that, whatever they feel, nurses do vote in this indicative poll. Because it does appear to be a genuine listening exercise, and I for one really want to hear what RCN members think. And, how much stronger would it be for the RCN to be able to tell the government that a hefty percentage of its members made their feelings known?

“It seems to me it is critical that you engage this with activity”

Of course the poll is just an appetiser, and if members did vote in favour, a formal ballot would then commence.

But without a strong response to gauge sensibly the feeling that is out there, that may never happen. So it seems to me it is critical that you engage this with activity as we stand on the brink of what could be a historic time for the college – and the nursing profession.

Voting closes at 11pm on Sunday 7 May. I am interested to hear what you decide to do.

More details can be found at


Readers' comments (19)

  • Most nurses enter nursing for vocational reasons. Not for the pay. I, for one, would prefer improved staffing levels, supportive leadership, humane shift patterns, a less overly punitive NMC, access to training and development and a reduction in paperwork over a pay rise any day. When will the unions ever learn that it is the poor working conditions and inability to deliver good patient care that demoralises most nurses and causes them to leave the profession. I repeat again. Not the rate of pay.

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  • Jack, I'm glad you said that regarding conditions vs pay
    Regarding pay: you cannot increase the pay of those paid via taxation without the following:
    a) reduce other tax-funded services/increase the workload of those receiving an increase;
    b) increase taxation to pay for it.
    OR, some combination of the above

    If neither are done we go to inflation - blowing up money to making it look bigger than it is because there isn't any. Quantitative Easing also does this, and we've already had Q.E. Inflation manifest itself in different ways, but all make your money appear less than it is - because it is inflated, so it is less than it appears due to it not being real. Low interest rates are one manifestation. You have a lot of money but it is increasingly worthless.

    Recessions come around every 8-yrs or so, we are therefore due another. The last one from which we are recovering is the last one - lengthy though it was.

    The NHS is a state monopoly - monopolies are always more expensive, even without the state bureaucracy. Unless people are willing to have hospitals taken out of state control and as 'free hospital', then management will always be oversized. NHS pensions are not costed - like NI - and until staff argue that they should be separate from gov and costed in the market, it will remain a political football.

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  • We need BOTH a pay rise & decent working conditions, access to education & development. Nurses will NEVER strike but we need to or else we will all see our salary decrease further under this government !

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  • Strike now otherwise we suffer more

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  • As a private sector worker i have voted and will support my nhs colleagues. Pay is one of the main reasons for leaving the nhs and also in returning to the nhs.

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  • The term of 'hypothesing militancy of an alleged few' is an interesting one when we consider the constant movement of politics to the right but also the influence of an increased NHS managerial agenda. In short even reasonable action given dire circumstances can appear militant when constant corporate NHS management and right wing politics diminishes language in order to offer the reasonable choice. The issue isnt therefore a militant few but the corrupt economic corporate language of management towards right thinking and acfion.

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  • I cannot see any circumstances under which I'd take strike action. Like others here I agree it's not pay which makes people want/need to leave the NHS. It's the stress generated by too little staff and couldn't-care-less nurse managers (until s'thing goes wrong that is) who should be agitating on behalf of their staff and patients but never do.

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  • Strike action is a necessity but a result that is at the hand of government and bad management itself - if you and many can't see any circumstance then nursing will continue in the direction it is and fragment altogether and patients suffering worse at the hands of those that would rule us. I don't want to work for Kaiser Permante nor Virgin - that is simply not public service care and I in my view refuse to betray the pubic. Strike action is regrettable but a necessity in my view if we are to stop the rot of managerial and corporate disregard.

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  • I would support strike, however more important for me is how I am treated as a nurse by my fellow nurses. I have worked long and hard often managing situations brilliantly and I am a hero to my patients but as I am not white I never got anywhere with promotions. I am currently in another area of nursing from the ward, thought it would be different but it actually is worse.
    Some hospitals I know are better that others in this respect.
    At my new place I was allocated a mentor who never cared to teach me, so I ended up getting bits of help from HCAs. This same nurse who never cared to teach me had two other white nurses who she would teach every thing that is required. Now both of them are more capable than I am, even though one came much later than I did.
    Teaching at school of nursing or universities is not the problem, the problem lies in the work place where black nurses are kept back by the fools, who are giving nursing a bad name and causing other black and asians to stay well away. I do not believe that black or asians should get promotion just to make it seem equal. We want a level playing field.
    This problem of not teaching all nurses the same at the workplace is a big problem.

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  • Surprise that nothing has changed with regards racism in nursing since we trained in the early 90s. Sad sad sad that's all I can say.

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