Caymans Post

A world within. A state apart.
Tuesday, Feb 07, 2023

Britain’s historic nurses’ strikes reveal health system pushed to the brink

Britain’s historic nurses’ strikes reveal health system pushed to the brink

Despite the effect on health service provision, the public overwhelmingly supports striking nurses. 

Britain’s nurses have walked out of the country’s hospitals in a stand off over pay with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak but there’s one group firmly behind the National Health Service: The public.

The largest strikes in the history of the country’s NHS kicked off in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in December, with a second day of strikes taking place on Tuesday. The walkout of up to 100,000 nursing staff in protest against real-term pay cuts and concerns about patient safety will massively disrupt ordinary health care provision. 

Despite the impact on the British public at a time of year when the health system is under extraordinary pressure, Britons are still firmly behind striking nurses. Two-thirds of the public support the strike action, a poll Tuesday from YouGov indicated. Levels of support were similar for strikes by ambulance staff, who are set to embark on action on Wednesday. 

“Health workers rarely go on strike but when they do it should be seen as a red flag, designating a health system in crisis,” said Martin McKee, president of the British Medical Association and professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “The NHS has gone from one of the best performing [health services] in industrialized countries to one that is failing on many measures in just over a decade.”

It's not just underinvestment in staff and equipment, but also failings in housing and welfare that are contributing to this, said McKee. 

Appearing before a committee of senior MPs on Tuesday, Sunak insisted he was sticking to the recommendations on pay set out by its pay review body.

He acknowledged inflation levels were “difficult for everybody,” but insisted the best way to help everyone else in the country was to “get a grip and reduce inflation as quickly as possible.” 

“If we get it wrong, and we're still dealing with high inflation in a year's time, that's not going to help anybody," he said. "I don't want to see that I want to see things get back to normal, and that's why having an independent process is an important part of making those decisions and getting them correct, and that's why we've accepted those recommendations.”

The strikes reveal the level of pressure on nurses, and the health system more broadly, over the past several years. Research from health think tank the King’s Fund shows there has been a 25 percent increase in the number of nurses leaving their role between June 2021 and June 2022 compared to the previous year. While the strikes will likely further increase already eye-watering long waiting lists, the Royal College of Nursing argues that the current staffing crisis is putting patients' lives at risk.


Not budging


Health Secretary Steve Barclay has refused to reopen pay negotiations on the demand for a pay rise of five percent above inflation, with the RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen saying Tuesday that it is “unprecedented” for the union's members to strike.

“If this government isn’t prepared to do the right thing, we’ll have no choice but to continue in January and that will be deeply regrettable,” Cullen warned. 

Analysis of the current state of Britain's health system paints a dire picture. "Restricted funding for more than a decade has led to a deterioration in performance right across the NHS, with waiting times standards for hospital care and for treatment at A&E routinely not met for more than 5 years," said Sally Warren, director of policy at the King's Fund.

"For staff working in the NHS, the latest annual NHS staff survey highlighted a sobering picture of over-stretched teams working in an under-staffed health service."

Nurses were paid less in real terms in 2021/22 than in 2010/11, said Nuffield Trust researcher, Lucina Rolewicz. "So it is unsurprising that many nurses are beginning to struggle with the cost of living," she said. But nurses are also leaving for other reasons, including work-life balance, Rolewicz added.

While the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic may have receded, the impact is still felt in the health system. During the health crisis, many staff experienced intense workload and burnout, the Health Foundation’s Stephen Rocks said Tuesday. Combined with the cost-of-living crisis, this is likely to “have a further adverse impact on staff pay, morale and retention,” he said. 

As for the NHS, it's focused on mitigating any threat to patients during the industrial action.

In advice sent out Tuesday, the NHS said that patients should "use services wisely" during strikes. The advice includes asking the public to "play their part" by looking after themselves and their loved ones, including by "drinking responsibly."

Newsletter

Related Articles

Caymans Post
Close
0:00
0:00
2 earthquakes in Turkey killed over 2,300 people
Powerful Earthquake Strikes Turkey and Syria, Killing More Than 1,300 People.
Turkish photographer Ugur Gallenkus portrays two different worlds within a single image. Brilliant work
Tennessee Bill Would Imprison People for 3 Years If They 'Lie' About Rape to Get an Abortion.
Charlie Munger, calls for a ban on cryptocurrencies in the US, following China's lead
EU found a way to use frozen Russian funds
First generation unopened iPhone set to fetch more than $50,000 at auction.
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT - US Memphis Police murdering innocent Tyre Nichols
Almost 30% of professionals say they've tried ChatGPT at work
Interpol seeks woman who ran elaborate exam cheating scam in Singapore
What is ChatGPT?
Bill Gates is ‘very optimistic’ about the future: ‘Better to be born 20 years from now...than any time in the past’
Tesla reported record profits and record revenues for 2022
Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre Photo Is Fake: Ghislaine Maxwell
Opinion | Israel’s Supreme Court Claims a Veto on Democracy
Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Gets Married On His 93rd Birthday
Who’s Threatening Israeli Democracy?
Federal Reserve Probes Goldman’s Consumer Business
China's first population drop in six decades
Microsoft is finalising plans to become the latest technology giant to reduce its workforce during a global economic slowdown
China's foreign ministry branch in Hong Kong urges British gov't to stop the biased and double standards Hong Kong report
Tesla slashes prices globally by as much as 20 percent
1.4 Million Copies Of Prince Harry's Memoir 'Spare' Sold On 1st Day In UK
After Failing To Pay Office Rent, Twitter May Sell User Names
Lisa Marie Presley, singer and daughter of Elvis, dies aged 54
FIFA president questioned by prosecutors
Britain's Sunak breaks silence and admits using private healthcare
Hype and backlash as Harry's memoir goes on sale. Unnamed royal source says prince 'kidnapped by cult of psychotherapy and Meghan'
Saudi Arabia set to overtake India as fastest-growing major economy this year 
Google and Facebook’s dominance in digital ads challenged by rapid ascent of Amazon and TikTok
FTX fraud investigators are digging deeper into Sam Bankman-Fried's inner circle – and reportedly have ex-engineer Nishad Singh in their sights
TikTok CEO Plans to Meet European Union Regulators
UK chaos: Hong Kong emigrants duped by false prospectus
France has banned the online sale of paracetamol until February, citing ongoing supply issues
Japan reportedly to give families 1 million yen per child to move out of Tokyo
Will Canada ever become a real democracy?
Hong Kong property brokerages slash payrolls in choppy market
U.S. Moves to Seize Robinhood Shares, Silvergate Accounts Tied to FTX
Effect of EU sanctions on Moscow is ‘less than zero’ – Belgian MEP
Coinbase to Pay $100 Million in Settlement With New York Regulator
FTX assets worth $3.5bn held by Bahamas securities regulator
A Republican congressman-elect is under investigation in New York after he admitted he lied about his education and work experience.
Brazilian football legend Pele, arguably the greatest player ever, has died at the age of 82.
Hong Kong to scrap almost all its Covid rules
EU calls screening of travellers from China unjustified
US imposes Covid testing for visitors from China
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Addresses Joint Session of Congress - FULL SPEECH
If a country is denied the right to independence by another, it is not in a union. It is in a dictatorship.
Where is Rishi? Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's excuses about the UK's economic challenges just don't make sense
Former FTX CEO Bankman-Fried finally arrested in Bahamas after U.S. files charges
×