Protestor at 'It's Our NHS' demonstration, 4 March. Photo: Flickr / Counterfire / Jim Aindow Protestor at 'It's Our NHS' demonstration, 4 March. Photo: Flickr / Counterfire / Jim Aindow

As the government insults NHS staff once again, on the ground, a serious fightback is on the cards

Nurses and other NHS staff reacted with anger over the 1% pay cap announced by the government this week. Since 2010 the pay restraint has meant we have lost 14% in real terms pay, which now will be even more. Workers are suffering financially, many pushed into accessing hardship grants and loans and emotionally, with morale being lower than ever before.

The government also announced within the last week it was banning staff with NHS contracts from doing outside agency work. This too was met with outrage particularly from my nursing colleagues who do extra shifts to be able to get by. The hypocrisy of this is breathtaking. MP George Osborne, or ‘six jobs Osborne’ can moonlight between different roles earning millions, yet us nurses are denied the opportunity to make ends meet.

For years nurses have been the ‘silent workforce’. Our last real fight was in 1988 when we went on strike over pay and conditions against Thatchers government, a fight that we won. The continual attacks over the last 18 months have pushed the silent workforce into a crisis and one that is teetering on the edge of action. Nurses language is changing, some who have been nurses for 30 years are talking about how for the first time they would down tools and go on strike. We have been hit hard by this government, we have lost our bursaries (which resulted in a 23% drop in applications this year alone), been under pay restraint, lost our safe staffing ratios, been banned from working outside agency, our working conditions eroded to the absolute bone, and our patients care suffering, as a direct result of this government’s austerity measures in the NHS.

Now it is time the nurses fought back. The RCN are consulting their members over pay, through various methods and will put our voices back to council to decide our next steps. This government will not listen to words, we have tried this for seven years and now I believe we should be taking industrial action. This solely depends though on members engaging with the union and putting the strongest voice for nursing out that we possibly can. The whole future of nursing is at stake here, and it is up to us to save it.

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