Posted: Wed 9th Nov 2022

Nurses in North Wales set to strike this winter after union members backed industrial action

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Nov 9th, 2022

Nursing staff at the majority of NHS employers in Wales have voted to take strike action over pay levels and patient safety concerns, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has confirmed.

Nurses at twelve out of 13 NHS employers in Wales including Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board reached the 50% turnout threshold.

Nurses at Aneurin Bevan UHB covering Gwent will not as it stands go on strike.

Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust Headquarters, Public Health Wales, NHS Shared Services Partnership, and Digital Health and Care Wales have also met the required threshold for strike action.

The RCN has been calling for a rise of 5% above the RPI inflation rate of 12%.

Nurses in every service in Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to strike, but in England the turnout was too low in nearly half of NHS trusts for action to take place.

RCN Wales confirmed that the first period of industrial action can be expected in December and the RCN’s mandate to organise strikes runs until early May 2023, six months after members finished voting.    

RCN Wales said, “This is the first statutory ballot on industrial action across the UK in the 106-year history of the Royal College of Nursing.”  

“The results for each NHS employer are analysed individually in what is known as a ‘disaggregated’ ballot.”

RCN Wales remains in a pay dispute with Welsh Government since October 2021 over its 3% pay award for NHS Wales nursing staff. 

Helen Whyley, Director, RCN Wales, said: 

“Today is a historic day for the nursing profession, our patients, and the future of nursing but ultimately one born of desperation. The decision to strike, has in not been taken lightly, and has passed to demand change where no other solution has been possible”. 

“Our members have spoken on what is an incredibly difficult decision both professionally and personally. The result of this ballot shows just how much nursing staff put the safety of their patients above all else.  

“Over the last few weeks of our campaign I have been overwhelmed by the support our members and the public have shown.  

“I have visited hospitals and workplaces throughout Wales. I have heard first hand of nurses who are struggling to pay their household bills, of the extra hours they have worked for free to subsidise the NHS, the shifts they have gone without any breaks. They have told me of their constant worry and despair for the safety of their patients due to short staffing.  

“There is currently no escape for staff, worry and guilt for their patients at work, worry and guilt for their families at home. This is not sustainable. Many have told me that they cannot continue in their beloved profession without change. 

“The message is loud and clear. Enough is enough. It is time to take decisive action against a spiralling workforce crisis that is putting patients’ lives in danger and has no regard for nursing staff wellbeing.” 

Richard Jones, RCN Wales Board Chair, said: 

“I want to say a huge thank you to each and every member who not only voted in this ballot, but who championed our campaign to ensure as many members voted as possible.  

“Every nurse wants to deliver the highest quality patient care in a lifelong career whilst being able to support themselves and their families.   

“Our members’ decisions are paramount in everything we do, so now we will deliver. We will do everything in our power in the next steps for the fight for fair pay and safe staffing levels which nursing staff so desperately deserve.” 

The Welsh government has offered all NHS staff on Agenda for Change terms and conditions – including nurses, cleaners, porters, healthcare support workers and healthcare professionals, a £1,400 pay rise on most pay grades.

The Royal College of Nursing Wales, in a letter, told the Health Minister Eluned Morgan MS, that ‘RCN Wales is ready and waiting to open discussions as soon as the Welsh Government wants to make a genuine commitment to improve the current NHS Wales pay award. ”

Commenting, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said:

“It is highly regrettable that nurses have decided to go on strike, with all the implications for patients who depend on NHS services, but let there be no doubt that nursing pay and conditions are the responsibility of the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay.

“This will only compound the problems facing the UK’s worst-run NHS as, under Labour, Wales has the longest treatment waiting lists, A&E waiting times, and ambulance response times in the country.

“I would stress that we cannot make the NHS permanently dependent on agency nurses but, in Labour-run Wales, it is already the case, with nurse vacancies going up by a thousand in just the last year, with £134m spent on agency workers.

“I hope the Minister finally engages with the Royal College of Nursing to bring this dispute to an end as swiftly as possible – it is disgraceful that she has avoided doing this so far to the detriment of patients and staff across Wales.”

The RCN said: “Strike action will be carried out legally and safely at all times, and the RCN will announce detailed plans and timelines for strike action soon.”

NHS employers who met the threshold to strike include:

  • Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board
  • Cardiff and Vale University Health Board
  • Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board
  • Digital Health and Care Wales
  • Health Education and Improvement Wales
  • Hywel Dda University Health Board
  • NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership
  • Powys Teaching Health Board
  • Public Health Wales
  • Swansea Bay University Health Board
  • Velindre University NHS Trust
  • Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust.

 

 

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