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  • 14 December 2022
  • 60 min read

Matt & Nikki: RCN Nurse Strike

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    • Mat Martin
    • Laura Bosworth
    • Richard Gill
  • 0
  • 1731

In this chat about Nursing Pay and the coming RCN Strike, I talk to Nikki about the strike, about nursing pay issues, public support for the strike, student nurse bursaries, placements, temp / agency nurses, hiring from overseas and the impacts of Conservative Government decisions since they took office in 2010.

Below are all the links and information to the things we reference so you can dive into source material yourself. And, of course, we'd love to hear what you think in the comments below.

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About Janet Dalton - Student Nurse

We use an email from mature student nurse, Janet, as discussion points throughout out chat. Janet has views on nursing pay and conditions that speak from the frontline.

Janet regularly chats with Nikki in our Cup of Care Podcast series.

About Janet's journey.

What is the UK NHS Nurse strike about?

Nikki on Talk TV explaining why Nurses are going to strike (watch till the end when Ian Collins calls the demands "stupid". Ouch!)

The pay of some experienced nurses has fallen by 20% in real terms.

The RCN has called for a pay award of 5% plus inflation – a total of about 15%

Strikes are set to take place before Christmas.

“Life-preserving care will be maintained”.

Unison is also balloting its 350,000 NHS members including nurses

Pay increases earlier this year were backdated to March of around 4%

Since 2010 and now nurse salaries have declined by 20% in real terms. It means a nurse is getting paid the same amount today for 5 days work as they got paid for 4 days work 10 years ago.

Working an extra day for the same pay.

"For many good reasons nursing choose temping.... but it's not balanced anymore... it's too expensive... it has an emotional toll"

Real earnings have lagged behind other professions.

Read about this in the London Economics report (commissioned by the RCN)

What are the retention figures in the NHS, why are nurses leaving and what is being done about it?

Yougov poll = 65% of the public support strike action.

If you want some basic stats and facts about nursing number go here.

London Economic report (link above) for RCN:

“Since 2010 leaver rate has increased from 8.5% to 10.9%”

- 40,365 nurses quit the NHS in the year to June 2022 – equivalent to one in nine according to a Nuffield Trust report

- Registered Nursing vacancies in England 46,828 now (that’s almost 12% vacancies unfilled). Against 38,814 (10.3%) year ago

What Do You Think?

Ask questions, comment and like this article below! Share your thoughts, add your opinion in the comments below.


Janet explains why Nurses are striking over pay

We quoted Janet and discussed the perception of Nurses, suggesting that they are now seen for what they are: highly qualified, graduate-level professionals.

Here's Janet's quote in full: "It seems to me that there is this common perception that people become nurses for compassionate reasons and that our motivation is to help people and give back to society etc, which I'm sure is true for most nurses. But somehow those sentiments then don't sit well next to financial considerations. In recent times when the discussion turned to what level of pay increase nurses needed, there was a sharp intake of breath at the figure. But what was not appreciated was that the figure was making up for many years of underpayment because our salaries had not kept up with the cost of living for many years."

Janet thinks it's a topsy-turvy world which doesn't value nursing roles

“As a society, nursing is just one of the jobs that highlights how priorities are misaligned and there are many roles that are undervalued yet they perform the most important functions in society. I have often said I would happily wear a company logo on my nursing uniform for the sponsorship fees that go to sportspeople who earn twice and thrice more in one week than nurses earn in a year. I find that fact quite obscene. It's a topsy-turvy world isn't it?”

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Janet says patients are surprised to hear the lack of support for student nurses

“Patients are astounded that as a student nurse, we only get a small bursary which, for me personally, equates to £6.66 an hour. The rest of our income comes from student loans and other jobs we may have. Secondly, we actually have to pay to do our degree to the tune of almost £30k for a three year degree.”

"it's like an NHS training programme and you're paying thirty grand to do it!"

Why I Think Student Nurses Should Be Paid For Placements

Polly Toynbee in The Guardian:

“Not only are nurses leaving the profession, but new entrants have fallen by a record 8% in the past year. Recruiting students, who face the prospect of £50,000 of debt, gets harder when half new recruits’ time is spent working on wards unpaid. Though in theory these student nurses are “supernumerary”, while under instruction they are increasingly used as spare hands caring for patients, doing the same exhausting shifts but paying instead of being paid. Unlike other students, they work too hard to take bar jobs to cover living costs; the age profile is older, and many will have children to look after too.”

Failure to get a grip by consecutive Conservative Governments is to blame

"This is about us getting the level of patient care we expect. The nurses can't deliver it because there are not enough nurses on the ward."

We boil it down (bit of a simplification, but it highlights a point) to 3 key decisions that the Government has taken, and needs to get a grip of to solve the nursing crisis and save the NHS.

1. Brexit (exodus of EU nurses hasn't been addressed)

Over one thousand EU nurses have left NHS since referendum

Large drop in the number of new nurses coming from the EU to work in the UK

2. Student bursary - “Almost half of the new nursing staff joining the NMC Register in the year to March 2022 were from overseas. 22,745 people from outside the EU / EEA joined the register (up from 9,152 the previous year).”

“Since 2019, there has been a ten-fold increase in the numbers of Nurses coming to the UK from countries identified as having severe staffing shortages.

“RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: "Ministers are overly reliant on Nurses from countries with critical workforce shortages. Meanwhile, their lack of investment in UK nursing staff – both today’s and those of the future – is deeply concerning.”

Lord Lilley said: ‘The alternative surely is to train our own Nurses, more of them. We turned away 26,000 British applicants from nursing courses in (2020), a far higher number than any other training or qualification area.’

"Why are we rationing places in our universities and turning away people who want to be Nurses, who we need as Nurses, blighting their prospective careers and making them do something else instead?" he asked.

There were 73,085 applicants for nursing courses in 2021 according to UCAS. Of these, only 37,805 were offered places, meaning that over 35,000 potential Student Nurses were rejected.

3. Pay

Basic Economics

£4.3bn on agency nurses; £21bn cost of failure to retain... we've got to train more nurses

We talk about how the maths just doesn't add up. Put aside the stress and emotional toll on Nurses and patient care, and look at the figures. It just doesn't make financial sense NOT to address nursing pay.

“It is a false economy to let experienced staff walk away over poor pay and conditions only to spend more recruiting internationally,’ said RCN general secretary Pat Cullen.”


"According to the study, international recruitment of Nurses costs nearly 2.5 times what it would cost to give a 5% above inflation pay rise to experienced Nurses considering leaving the profession"

Total bill for agency nurses 2017-2021 = £4.3 billion

"The cost of recruiting a single overseas Nurse is £16,900 compared with £7,100 it would cost to give a 5% above inflation pay rise to a ‘typical Nurse’.”

Cost of retention in NHS generally is £21bn

Oliver Dowden's "well-oiled contingencies" quote

"Before they come to the table, these people should put on some scrubs and do a 12 hour shift"

What is he talking about? What “well-oiled contingencies”?

Why haven’t they already put these into action to fill the 47,000 - 48,000 unfilled nursing vacancies?

Plans in place to deal with strike action by UK’s nurses, government says

What do you think he's on about here?

How does it make you feel?

Comment below!

Do you need support?

If you feel overwhelmed and in need of support we're here to help.

Please do feel free to contact our resident Nurse, coach and general lovely person - Nikki - at

She’ll treat each contact with confidence.

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About the author

I believe people should be able to choose to enjoy work. That is, choose an employer who reflects their values and provides them with a sustainable career.

    • Mat Martin
    • Laura Bosworth
    • Richard Gill
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  • 1731

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