NHS nurses union announce first ever UK-wide strike

Watch ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan's report as NHS nurses announce strike action.

NHS nurses are to strike over pay after members of the union representing close to half a million nurses across the UK were balloted.

More than 300,000 members were urged by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to vote for strike action in the union’s biggest strike ballot.

The walkout is the first UK-wide strike action in the RCN's 106-year history.

Industrial action is expected to be held before the end of the year at some of the country’s biggest hospitals, including Guy’s and St Thomas’ opposite Parliament, the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, University Hospital Wales and Belfast’s Royal Victoria.

The results of the ballot come amid a growing threat of strikes across the health service.

Minimum staffing levels will be adhered to when nurses strike. Credit: PA

Health workers in other unions, including ambulance staff, hospital porters and cleaners, are also voting on industrial action over pay.

A vote in favour of strike action does not mean every nurse has to strike, although they will have the choice to do so.

However, minimum staffing levels would be adhered to on strike days and determined by the life-preserving care model.

The model ensures that emergency treatment and care still takes place and that patient lives are not put at risk.

The government said it has contingency plans for dealing with any industrial action by nurses.

RCN strike action will take place at these locations

East Midlands

  • East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust

  • NHS Derby and Derbyshire ICB (Joined Up Care Derbyshire)

  • NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICB

  • Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

  • Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

  • Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust

  • Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

  • Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

  • Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

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  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust

  • Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

  • East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

  • Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust

  • Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

  • Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust

  • Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust

  • West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

  • NHS Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB

  • NHS Mid and South Essex ICB

  • NHS Norfolk and Waveney ICB

  • NHS Suffolk and North East Essex ICB

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  • Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

  • Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust

  • Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust

  • Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust

  • St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

  • Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

  • Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust

  • University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • NHS North Central London ICB

  • NHS South West London ICB

  • NHS Resolution

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North West

  • Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust

  • Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust

  • Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Found Trust

  • Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Found Trust

  • The Christie NHS Foundation Trust

  • Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust

  • Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

  • North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust

  • Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

  • Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust

  • Midlands and Lancashire CSU

  • Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Found Trust

  • Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust

  • Central Cheshire Integrated Care Partnership

  • St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

  • Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

  • The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust

  • Health Education England

  • NHS Cheshire and Merseyside ICB

  • NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB

  • Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

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  • North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust

  • University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust

  • Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

  • County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust

  • Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust

  • The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • North of England CSU (NECS)

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South East

  • Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust

  • East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust

  • University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust

  • South East Coast Ambulance Service

  • Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust

  • Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

  • Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

  • NHS Kent and Medway ICB

  • NHS Surrey Heartlands ICB

  • Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust

  • Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust

  • University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

  • South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

  • Solent NHS Trust

  • Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust

  • Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust

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South West

  • Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

  • Devon Partnership NHS Trust

  • South Western Ambulance Service NHS Found Trust

  • Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust

  • Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • North Bristol NHS Trust

  • Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust

  • University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust

  • University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust

  • Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

  • NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT)

  • Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust

  • Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

  • Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust

  • Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust

  • University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust

  • Somerset NHS Foundation Trust

  • Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust

  • Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust

  • NHS Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire ICB (BSW Together)

  • NHS Devon ICB (One Devon)

  • NHS Dorset ICB (Our Dorset)

  • NHS Gloucestershire ICB (One Gloucestershire)

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West Midlands

  • Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

  • Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust

  • The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

  • Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust

  • Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust

  • University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

  • Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust

  • Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

  • Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trust

  • NHS Birmingham and Solihull ICB (BSol ICB)

  • NHS Black Country ICB

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Yorkshire & The Humber

  • Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust

  • Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

  • York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust

  • Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust

  • The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

  • NHS England

  • Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

  • NHS West Yorkshire ICB

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  •  Cardiff and Vale University Health Board

  • Powys Teaching Local Health Board

  • Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust Headquarters

  • Hywel Dda University Health Board

  • Swansea Bay University Health Board

  • Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board

  • Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board

  • Velindre NHS Trust

  • Public Health Wales

  • Health Education and Improvement Wales Health Authority

  • NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership

  •  Digital Health and Care Wales

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  • NHS Borders

  • NHS Education For Scotland

  • NHS Fife

  • NHS National Services Scotland

  • NHS Shetland

  • NHS Western Isles

  • NHS Dumfries and Galloway

  • NHS Orkney

  • NHS Golden Jubilee

  • NHS 24

  • The State Hospitals Board for Scotland

  • NHS Grampian

  • NHS Tayside

  • NHS Ayrshire and Arran

  • The Highland Council

  • Healthcare Improvement Scotland

  • Public Health Scotland

  • NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

  • Scottish Ambulance Service

  • NHS Lothian

  • NHS Lanarkshire

  • NHS Highland

  • NHS Forth Valley

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Northern Ireland

  • Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council

  • Southern Health and Social Care Trust

  • Western Health and Social Care Trust

  • Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

  • Business Services Organisation

  • Regulation & Quality Improvement Authority

  • Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service

  • Public Health Agency

  • Northern Health and Social Care Trust

  • South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

  • Northern Ireland Ambulance Service

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Ahead of the announcement, Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden said in the event of industrial action, the NHS would prioritise the most essential services – although he acknowledged that it would have an impact on other activity.

"I would continue to urge nurses and others to resist going out on strike even if they have voted to do so. We have already agreed quite considerable support for nurses," Mr Dowden told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.He continued: “Of course, if you are in the situation where you have a large number of nurses going out on strike, of course that is going to have an impact for example on some elective surgery and other activities.”

Nurses’ real-terms earnings have fallen by 6% compared with 3.2% for private sector employees, analysis by London Economics found.

RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: “Anger has become action – our members are saying enough is enough. The voice of nursing in the UK is strong and I will make sure it is heard. Our members will no longer tolerate a financial knife-edge at home and a raw deal at work. “Ministers must look in the mirror and ask how long they will put nursing staff through this. While we plan our strike action, next week’s Budget is the UK government’s opportunity to signal a new direction with serious investment. Across the country, politicians have the power to stop this now and at any point.

“This action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses. Standards are falling too low and we have strong public backing for our campaign to raise them. This winter, we are asking the public to show nursing staff you are with us.”

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the demands by nurses are “out of step” with the current economic circumstances the UK faces.

He said: “We also need to recognise that these are economically challenging times. We need a strong economy in order to pay for a strong healthcare system.

He said that the pay demand “is out of step with the economic circumstances that we face”.

Responding to Mr Barclay’s description of the ballot result as “disappointing”, Ms Cullen said: “There’s no one more disappointed in the health secretary than the nursing staff that have been pushed to the position they’ve been to today and that is to have to ballot for strike action.”

She added: “I’m disappointed with his response. I think he needs to really seriously consider what has happened today. He can’t ignore those hundreds of thousands of nurses and it will be very, very disappointing for each and every one of the nursing staff that voted today if he turns his back – or any government turns their back – on nursing staff now.”

RCN members pictured protesting in Belfast in August. Credit: PA

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We value the hard work of NHS staff including nurses, and are working hard to support them – including by giving over one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year as recommended by the independent NHS Pay Review Body, on top of 3% last year when pay was frozen in the wider public sector.

“Industrial action is a matter for unions, and we urge them to carefully consider the potential impacts on patients.”

Downing Street said strike action was “deeply regrettable”.

Speaking before the industrial action had been announced, the prime minister's official spokesperson said: “We hugely value the hard work and dedication of our nurses, but it is deeply regrettable that some union members are considering this action.

“These are challenging times for everyone.

“I think you’ll know the RCN are asking for 17% pay rise. To deliver that for all staff … that would cost £9 billion.

“In the current climate that is simply not deliverable.”

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