Nurses in the UK are considering strike action for the first time - here's why

If it goes ahead, it would be a historic move.

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If it goes ahead, it would be a historic move.

For the first time in its 106-year history, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is calling on its nurses to consider strike action. The union, which is balloting its 300,000 members, is also recommending that they vote in favour.

Why? Well it comes down to pay. According to the RCN, nurses should get a rise of 5% above inflation – which is currently 10.1% - but no UK nations (apart from Scotland) have offered this. The RCN also point to new analysis by London Economics that shows how pay for nurses has declined at twice the rate of the private sector in the last decade.

In a statement on its website about the strike ballot, the RCN state: "This follows the below-inflation pay award in England and Wales and pay offer in Scotland. There has been no award made in Northern Ireland at this time.

Strike action is a last resort. But it can be a powerful tool for change. Unfairly low pay in our profession is driving chronic understaffing. It puts patients at risk and leaves nursing staff overworked, underpaid and undervalued."

Results of the ballot are due next month. If the strike does go ahead, the RCN have stressed that emergency care would not be affected. Non-urgent care would be affected though, and undoubtedly, it would cause significant disruption to the NHS.

A nurse speaking to Sky News on why she'll be voting in favour of the strike, has claimed that every shift she works is "carnage" due to a lack of staff and underfunding. Katie Kendrick told the publication that the strike is needed to highlight the risk to patients, especially as winter approaches:

"We're only at the beginning of October and we're not coping - we can't cope. I am terrified about what is going to happen in winter - we are losing so many really good, valuable nurses. This is about patient safety. It's not safe. I wouldn't want my parents, anyone that I loved, to be cared for in a corridor."

Pat Cullen, the the union’s general secretary and chief executive, has urged members to get behind the ballot and vote for historic action. According to The Guardian, Cullen told members: "This is a once in a generation chance to improve your pay and combat the staff shortages that put patients at risk.

Governments have repeatedly neglected the NHS and the value of nursing. We can change this if together we say ‘enough is enough’."

Amy Sedghi

Amy Sedghi is a freelance journalist, specialising in health and fitness, travel, beauty, sustainability and cycling.

Having started her career in The Guardian newsroom working with an award-winning team, Amy's proud to have reported on a variety of topics, speaking to a range of voices and travelling far and wide to do so. From interviews on ski lifts to writing up breaking stories outside courtrooms, Amy is used to reporting from a range of locations (she’s even been known to type up a story in a tent).

She also loves being active, spending time outdoors and travelling - with some of her favourite features she’s worked on combining all three. Cycling and eating her way round the Isle of Man, learning to sail on the Côte d'Azur and traversing the Caminito del Rey path in Spain are just some of her highlights.

Covering a diverse range of subjects appeals to Amy. One minute she may be writing about her online styling session with Katie Holmes’ stylist and the next she’s transporting readers to the basketball courts of Haringey where she joined a group trying to lower knife crime in the capital.

While at university, Amy was awarded The Media Society bursary. Following her stint at the Guardian, Amy worked at Google and as well as writing for Marie Claire, she regularly contributes interviews, features and articles to National Geographic Traveller, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, Stylist, Refinery29, Glorious Sport, Cycling Weekly and Rouleur.

When she’s not writing, Amy can be found trying to get through her towering stack of books-to-read, cycling down at Herne Hill Velodrome or looking for the next place to eat and drink with friends.