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Nurses escalate action [print version]

A clear message from RCN members on strike 19 January at The Christie, Manchester, one of Britain’s leading cancer specialist hospitals. Photo Workers.

From 1 to 3 March Royal College of Nursing members at every employer in England with a strike mandate will be taking action including on night shifts.

The government has ignored every round of strike action so far which means nurses need to escalate. The union says: “The nursing profession, our patients and the NHS are in danger – we have to fight back together.”

The crucial data linking nurses’ pay to retention and the future of the NHS is well illustrated in the new RCN report Valuing Nursing in the UK. It showed an overall increase of 9 per cent in the numbers leaving the nursing register between 2020-21 and the previous year, and then a further increase of 3 per cent in 2022.

The trend which emerged post pandemic of an increase in those wanting to join the profession has now reversed. February figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) showed that applications for nursing courses in England fell by 19 per cent last year.

Everybody except the government is listening and speaking out. The NHS employers’ organisation have called on the government to negotiate. On 6 February the chief nurses of ten of England’s leading teaching hospitals called for a swift resolution.

In taking national action for the first time in its history, the RCN is taking responsibility for the NHS and asking us all to “fight back together”, putting the onus on the whole working class to take responsibility too. The time for passive clapping is well over. In our history we have found ingenious ways to fight, and we need to draw on that history now.  

• An updated version of this article is available on the web at www.cpbml.org.uk.