Nursing strikes in England end because of low turnout

Turnout was 43 per cent, below the 50 per cent required by law for a strike to go ahead

Powered by automated translation

Nursing strikes in England will end after the profession’s largest trade union failed to meet the legal minimum turnout threshold – but it insisted the fight for higher pay is “far from over”.

The Royal College of Nursing said although more than 100,000 of its members voted in favour of strike action, turnout was 43 per cent, below the 50 per cent required by law for a strike to go ahead. Of those who voted, 84 per cent backed strike action.

The union said approximately 140,000 ballot papers needed to be returned in the post to meet the threshold and 122,000 were received by the closing date of Friday, June 23.

In an email to members, RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: “While the vast majority of members who returned their ballot papers voted in favour of strike action, we did not meet the 50 per cent turnout threshold necessary for us to be able to take further strike action.

“While this will be disappointing for many of you, the fight for the fair pay and safe staffing that our profession, our patients, and our NHS deserves, is far from over.”

Earlier this year, Ms Cullen warned nurses could stage regular strikes until December over their long-running pay wrangle.

In April, RCN members rejected a government offer, which includes a one-off payment equivalent to 2 per cent of salaries in the 2022-23 financial year and a 5 per cent pay rise for 2023-24.

The deal was later accepted by a council of health unions, paving the way for the government to force it through.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has said the government will no longer negotiate on pay.

A Department of Health and Social Care representative said: "We hugely value the work of nurses and welcome the end to hugely disruptive industrial action so staff can continue caring for patients and cutting waiting lists.

"More than one million eligible NHS staff are receiving their pay rise and one-off payments this month, with an experienced nurse receiving over £5,100 in extra pay across last year and this year.

"We are committed to supporting nurses to continue to progress and develop, including as part of the upcoming NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.

"We hope other unions who remain in dispute with the government recognise it is time to stop industrial action and move forward together."

The chief executive of NHS Providers, Sir Julian Hartley, said while the RCN failed to get enough 'yes' votes from nurses to carry out another round of strike action, "we must not ignore the strength of feeling within the profession and the factors that compelled them to walk out in the first place".

"Trust leaders will of course be hugely relieved there will be no more strikes by nurses for the foreseeable future, but it is vital the government and RCN now take this opportunity to 'reset' their relationship and to resolve wider, ongoing issues affecting the NHS workforce, including understaffing and burnout," he said.

"Anything less risks compounding the damaging legacy of increasingly long and drawn-out industrial disputes between the government and different groups of healthcare staff."

Junior doctors in England are involved in a separate pay dispute and are to strike for five days next month.

Updated: June 27, 2023, 12:16 PM