Increasing public support for nurse strike action, poll reveals

Almost two-thirds of the public support nursing staff taking strike action over pay, a snapshot poll conducted on behalf of the Royal College of Nursing has shown.

A survey of 1,752 adults in the UK, conducted by YouGov in August, found 64% of the public support nurses taking strike action. This was up from 60% in June.

“Strike action is no one’s first choice, especially nursing staff”

Pat Cullen

The data from 26-28 August showed that three quarters of respondents (75%) said they feel there are not enough nursing staff employed in the NHS for safe care.

Meanwhile, just over half of respondents (56%) felt confident they would receive good care in the NHS. This is a sharp 12% fall in public confidence since June (68%).

Nearly two-thirds (62%) said this was due to there not being enough nurses and nursing staff to provide safe care, while over half (55%) said waiting times were a factor contributing to their concerns.

This poll comes as the Royal College of Nursing prepares to ballot 300,000 members in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales on strike action this month.

The ballots are being launched following the below-inflation pay awards presented by the governments in the UK to NHS staff on Agenda for Change for 2022-23.

Ahead of the ballots opening in September, the union has announced that it will be increasing the benefit available to its members who go on strike, from its £50m strike fund.

After a meeting of the RCN’s governing council this week, the union has said striking nursing staff whose earnings are withheld by their employer will now receive a strike benefit payment of £50 a day. This is a rise of just over 10%.

The strike benefit payment will also be payable from the first day of the strike compared to previous rules, where members were only eligible to claim the payment from the second day of action.

The strike benefit will only be paid to those who have had their salary deducted by their employer for the hours not worked during strike action, and the union said it will review the payment in the event of any sustained industrial action.

Royal College of Nursing general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, said: “Strike action is no one’s first choice, especially nursing staff. We joined the profession to treat people, to advocate for our patients and the care they deserve, and through this vote we are saying they deserve better.”

Ms Cullen reiterated that nursing staff on the picket line will receive £50 a day, to help reduce the impact of action on their earnings “in these toughest of times”.

She added: “If we are pushed to strike we will still be advocating for these patients and the future of the NHS they deserve.

“This increase recognises the increased cost of living and the impact spiralling inflation is having on each and every one of our members.”

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