Nurse strike UK: North East community unites behind region's nurses as RCN confirms first strike in union's 106-year history

As nursing staff across the UK prepare for strike action, patients across the North East have voiced their support in the fight for fair pay and better working conditions.

The result of the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) ballot was announced last week, with record numbers of nurses set to join picket lines. All NHS employers in Northern Ireland and Scotland will take part, as will all bar one in Wales. Some hospitals across England did not meet the legal turnout threshold to qualify for action.

Pat Cullen, RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive said: “I want to thank every member who took part in, or supported, this ballot. You can be very proud. The results are strong and clear. This is a defining moment in our history, and our fight will continue through strike action and beyond for as long as it takes to win justice for the nursing profession and our patients.”

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While the majority of readers were vocal in their support for nurses, some voiced concerns about how services would be affected by any strikes, and whether there was another way for staff’s voices to be heard. Others also compared nurses’ salary bands to other professions, and questioned why not all NHS trusts in England met the threshold.

Here’s how readers reacted as news of the RCN ballot result was confirmed:

‘Desperate times call for desperate measures’

Brian Eggleston: “It's the first time in over 100 years that nurses have felt obliged to go on strike but desperate times call for desperate measures.”

Evelyn Patterson: “You definitely have my support. You deserve a pay rise. I've just come out of hospital and these nurses are absolute angels. The commitment they give to their job is outstanding.”

Members of NHS staff and their supporters march in protest about NHS pay in July last year. Picture: Niklas Halle'n/AFP via Getty Images.

Annie Koast: “Part of me wants to be selfish and say what about my treatment. However, our nurses need to be paid a living wage and then some.”

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Helen Heap: “100% agree with them … what our nurses and midwives have had to endure through 12 years of austerity has brought the NHS to its knees.”

‘Things have never been so bad’

Mark Hornby: “Encouraged to clap for them in the middle of the pandemic, but won’t give them a decent wage.”

A Royal College of Nursing billboard, pictured in March 2021, following the Government's NHS pay proposal at the time: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.
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Sara Luther: “I’ve been a nurse for over 20 years, things have never been so bad.”

Suan Ridgeway: “Shocking that it’s come to striking but what choice do nurses have?”

Alan Churcher: “Next time we have a medical crisis let the politicians go to help the patients.”

‘Claps won’t pay the bills’

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NHS staff take part in a march through central London, demanding a pay rise on the service's 73rd birthday in summer 2021. Picture: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images.

Ann Evans: “Sadly there doesn't seem to be any other way to get through to this government how fed up and undervalued they feel. Claps won't pay the bills.”

Sue Harbottle: “As a retired nurse I am very sad to see this happen, but I understand that they are sick of being pushed aside. If the recent pandemic has not shown how hard the job can be, I don't know what will.”

Dave Brown: “It's disgusting the way you have all been treated. I think you'll find most will support you.”

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Gaynor Clarke: “I am sorry for all of you for having to make this difficult decision.”

Eileen Pitt: “This is how bad the situation is. Not one single nurse would contemplate strike action unless things were absolutely dire.”

‘How do you get more out of an empty pot?’

Michael Wilkins: “They have a job for life. And no doubt a good pension at the end of it. A starting salary of £27,000 is more than I ever earned when working.”

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Dave Smith: “They’re so angry almost half of the trusts in England can’t take action as not enough of the members could be [bothered] to vote. How badly off are they?”

Steve Appleton: “How do you get more out of an empty pot? I am sure police, fire, ambulance etc deserve more and should be at the top of the tree when it comes to public sector pay, but that isn’t the climate we live in.”

Jane London: “Medical people simply must find other ways. Not strikes.”