RCN ramps up warning over potential strikes in 2024

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is asking its members about their appetite for further strike action, as a new poll shows the public supports nurses taking industrial action in 2024.

One year on from the RCN’s first strikes in its ongoing pay dispute with the government, the college is warning of the possibility of nurses in England returning to the picket line in the new year.

Any new nursing strikes could align with the next general election, which must take place no later than 28 January 2025 but is expected to be called at some point in 2024.

Speaking today, RCN chief nurse Professor Nicola Ranger said: “When politicians start canvassing voters and knocking on doors, nursing staff could again be standing on picket lines – fighting for fair pay and safe staffing levels.”

The RCN has started conducting research with its members working for the NHS in England using an online survey and telephone interviews to ask about their appetite for fresh industrial action in the new year among other topics.

However, the college confirmed to Nursing Times that this is not an indicative ballot.

During its research, the RCN will also be asking members about their attitudes towards pay and working conditions and about their experience of previous strike action.

“When politicians start canvassing voters and knocking on doors, nursing staff could again be standing on picket lines”

Nicola Ranger

Meanwhile, the RCN has also today revealed the results of a new poll of the public carried out by YouGov on the subject of potential future nursing strikes.

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The survey found six in 10 people (60%) continue to support nurses taking to picket lines – the same as this time last year.

A slightly higher proportion would support nurses striking over staffing levels (73%) than pay (66%) in 2024.

The poll showed that 85% of the public believe there are too few nurses to safety care for patients in the NHS.

Professor Ranger added: “The voice of nursing is strong, and we will always speak up for our patients.

“The public knows that and it’s why they continue to back us. We will only get a safe NHS when we have enough nurses.

“But nursing staff continue to feel undervalued by those in power. No party is yet able to confidently say they can avoid further action in 2024.

“Political leaders must show they are ready to respect nursing staff, pay them fairly and addressing the staffing crisis.”

On 15 December 2022, RCN members in England went on strike for the first time in the college’s history to demand better pay and were joined by colleagues in Wales and Northern Ireland.

They continued to strike through to May 2023 when the college’s strike mandate expired. During that same month, the NHS Staff Council voted to accept an Agenda for Change pay deal from the government, despite it being rejected by RCN members.

In June 2023, the RCN failed to secure enough votes to extend its strike mandate when it balloted members, but the college remains in dispute with the government in England over nurse pay.

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