Nurses Striking – What’s Happening To The Nurses In The UK?

Jan 24, 2023 | Aussie Nurse

I was recently on holiday in the UK and being there reminded me how nursing is a global profession, no matter in which country nurses are in we are always at the front line plus we experience being at work differently in each country

The UK health system is facing extreme difficulties, it is in a workforce crisis with nurses and many health professionals such as ambulance staff taking industrial action with striking over pay and work conditions.

While in the UK the NHS (National Health System) was being talked about all the time on the tv news, it was constantly a topic on the radio, also the NHS and nurses being front page of the newspapers and politicians regularly debating a healthcare system that is changing.

When I was out and about meeting people, the conversations all came back to the NHS as some people held mixed opinions and thankfully many people had a desire to fight for the service. I was able to only listen because it was overwhelming to come from Australia and see so much, although it is interesting how nursing is viewed by society.

The NHS was where I completed my nurse training and I now have sadness with where it is today, I have never forgotten the words that I was taught of the healthcare system being for all from ‘cradle to the grave’.

This was said by Winston Churchill after the World Wars, I have always been grateful to start in a system of UHC (Universal health coverage). The healthcare system in the UK is called the NHS – National Health System and it is funded by the government through taxes, it provides healthcare to all UK residents with most services free at the point of use for many people. 

What’s Happening With Nurses In The UK? -Strikes Over Pay & Work Conditions

The 3 Areas Leading To Industrial Action & Strikes Are – 

  1. Pay 
  2. Acute Staff Shortages with Recruitment & Retention 
  3. Patient Safety

Many nurses are trying their best to come to work to look after people and no one wants to take industrial action by striking and leaving the work, the aim is to avoid any disruption to patient care but nurses in the UK are working in difficult conditions especially with not receiving a fair wage.

A google search of ‘UK nurses going to food bank’ brings up article after article of the current issues nurses are facing, after health professionals are receiving their pay packets they have to go to food banks as their wages are not meeting basic essential living needs. It’s a situation even with receiving a pay packet, hardships have been reached and they are using food banks to feed themselves and their family. 

We all know that healthcare is a massive and complex system, I’m not sure if it takes years until a critical point is hit, yet the link below shows nurses have had a decade of pay erosion. A statement in this piece is – “an experienced nurse in 2022-23 is being paid the same amount for 5 days’ work as for 4 days’ work in 2010-11”.

‘A decade of pay erosion: The destructive effect on UK nursing staff earnings and retention (Oct 2022) –

Two unions- the RCN (Royal College Of Nursing) and Unison are both playing an important role to give nurses a voice by advocating and negotiating for better work conditions and a fair wage. But the significant demands for health services and the high level of vacancies in the nursing workforce has led to a shortage of nurses with poor nursing retention.

This resource by the Nuffield Trust has found that 40,365 nurses have left the NHS from June 2021 to June 2022, thats 1 in every 9 nurses leaving –

With both pay and working conditions affected, nurses are facing a challenging situation with so many stressors and low morales. On top of all this is the real impact on the safety and wellbeing of patients with possibilities of errors or mistakes increasing too. 

The UK nurses seem to be persevering with grit and a strength to be able to find it in themselves to show up to work in tough conditions. I can’t even imagine how stressful it is to turn up in a nurses uniform and have to fight to provide safe care without safe staffing levels and with all the financial constraints.

Its amazing how each country have differences in the way healthcare systems and resources are allocated, this reminds me that even systems like healthcare or education were originally created with the generations that went through Great Depressions and World Wars, today these systems have become fragile at a great cost.

The industrial actions and strikes are a responsibility to unite for healthcare and to care for our roles as nurses with keeping patient outcomes safe. To these nurses and health professionals in the NHS with all the continuing strikes, nurses from around the world of nurses are behind you, we see.


General Additional Resources –

(Photo by – No Affiliation)

Thanks for reading & Stay Safe – Aussie Nurse

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