British nurses begin a historic strike, as salary and staffing crises threaten the NHS


London
CNN

Nurses have been launched in most parts of the UK Historic strike On Thursday, as they were discharged from hospitals and on strike lines after several years of low wages and deteriorating standards, the country’s nationalized healthcare system was left in a state of crisis.

Up to 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) – the UK’s largest nursing association – are taking industry action in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in the latest and most unprecedented rash that swept Britain this winter. It is the largest strike in the 106-year history of the RCN.

But it comes after several years of hardship for staff of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), a respected but embattled institution squeezed by staff shortages, high demand and huge funding.

“I went into nursing to care for patients, and over the years my ability to provide the level of care my patients deserve has been compromised,” Andrea Mackay, who worked as a nurse for seven years at a hospital in southwest England, told CNN of her reasons for striking on Thursday.

“The reality is that nurses across the UK go every day to hospitals that are understaffed,” Mackay said. “The NHS has been operating on the compassion and goodwill of nurses for years…it’s not sustainable.”

“It’s about paying employees what they’re owed so they can pay the bills,” Jesse Collins, a pediatric nurse preparing to join the strike, told CNN, adding that staffing pressures have crippled the emergency department where she regularly works. Among my worst shifts I was the sole nurse to 28 sick children… It’s not safe and we can’t give the care these kids need sometimes,”

Pamela Jones, who is in the picket line outside Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool, told PA Media: “I am amazing today because I have been a nurse for 32 years; over those 32 years the changes have been astronomical.

“I feel really sorry for the young girls who are now trying to get into the profession, they have to pay to be trained. The public needs to understand the pressures everyone is under. You just have to come to A&E and see the queues, there’s no family.”

“We want to save our NHS, we don’t want it to continue and I think that’s the way forward, it’s the only way we can make our point. We don’t want to be here. I was really torn about the strike because it wasn’t something we didn’t do.” I would never think of him in my life ever, but the government pushed us into it.”

She added, “I hope the government listens, because none of us want to be here, we just want a fair wage increase.”

The strike takes place in two days – Thursday and next Tuesday – and not every NHS fund will be involved. But it represents one of the most dramatic uses of the industrial measure in the 74-year history of the NHS, and it has intensified debate about the state of Britain’s public services.

The RCN is calling for a 5% wage increase on top of retail inflation, which is as high as 19% according to current figures, and for the government to fill a record number of vacancies that it says put patient safety at risk. Steve Barclay, the UK’s health secretary, told CNN in a statement earlier this week that their request was “not affordable.”

The standoff comes after years of disputes over the level of pay for NHS staff. Nurses’ salaries fell by 1.2% each year between 2010 and 2017 once inflation is factored in, according to the Health Foundation, a British charity that works towards improving healthcare and health care. For the first three of those years, their salaries were frozen.

Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting to receive care has skyrocketed, a years-long trend exacerbated by the pandemic.

According to the British Medical Association, 7.2 million people in England – more than one in eight residents – are currently awaiting treatment. Seven years ago, the figure was 3.3 million.

“I work alongside some amazing (nurses) who come in early, leave late, work through breaks and lunches, and agree to come in on their days off overtime to make sure their patients are as safe as we can be,” McKay told CNN. that.

“I don’t have all the answers and I realize there is a limit to the funds available, but unless the government prioritizes health, patient safety, (and) strengthening the workforce, the NHS will collapse,” she said.

Free to care, the NHS forms a central part of Britain’s national psyche and the third rail of the country’s politics. During the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of Britons stood outside their homes to pay their respects to NHS workers, in a weekly government-backed ritual.

But that has since been criticized as a hollow gesture by disgruntled employees, who say the government’s salary offers to employees do not represent the same spirit.

Brits paid tribute to NHS workers during the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, the RCN rejected an offer by the government to raise nurses’ salaries by a minimum of £1,400 ($1,707) a year, which represents an average rise of 4.3%, well below the rate of inflation.

“I have cared for patients who can remember life before the NHS. They know how precious it is because they have seen what happened before,” Mackay said.

Labor leader Keir Starmer attacked Rishi Sunak on strike during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, telling him that “the whole country will breathe a sigh of relief” if he stops the strike by striking a deal with the RCN.

Starmer said the industrial strike was “a badge of shame for this government”.

Most nurses who take part in Thursday’s work will be amazing for the first time in their lives. But they are joining workers across Britain’s public services in leaving work and demanding higher wages and conditions, fueling a swell of strikes unlike any seen in the UK in decades.

Staff at Britain’s railways, buses, motorways and borders are taking industrial strikes this month, essentially bringing various forms of travel to a halt. Teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers and paramedics are all set to strike in December.

The government has been left scrambling to respond. Ministers said earlier this month that members of Britain’s armed forces were being trained to drive ambulances and fight fires in the event of a strike. On Tuesday, the police union said so Offer a request For police officers driving ambulances.

The unions threatened more measures in the new year, when the cost of living crisis that has cast a shadow over Britain in recent months is expected to worsen.

A total of 417,000 working days were lost due to strikes in October, the latest month for which figures are available, according to National Statistics Office (ONS). This is the highest number for any month since 2011.

The impact of those strikes has led parts of the British media to relive memories of the so-called Winter of Discontent in 1978 and 1979, when demonstrations brought the UK to a halt – although this year’s level of industrial strikes makes up a small part of those months, as it was lost Several million working days.

Opposition parties accused Sunak of refusing to negotiate with unions in good faith and of not doing enough to prevent strikes from going ahead.

But the ongoing disagreements are a thorny issue for both major parties. Labor – a party with strong historical links to trade unions – has been walking a tightrope, urging the government to do more but refusing to explicitly support the demands of the sit-down protesters.

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