Nurses across Dorset vote for strike action

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members at all of the NHS trusts that cover Dorset have voted to strike for the first time ever, in a dispute over pay.

Not all hospital trusts in England will be affected as nearly half missed the legal turnout thresholds to qualify for action but RCN members did vote in sufficient numbers to trigger walkouts at Poole Hospital, Royal Bournemouth, Dorset County Hospital and all the community hospitals in Dorset including Swanage Hospital.

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Swanage Hospital MIU sign

Swanage Hospital is part of Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust where RCN members have voted for strike action. It is not yet known whether Swanage Hospital staffing will be affected

First walkout is expected before Christmas

Industrial action is expected to begin before the end of 2022 and the RCN’s mandate to organise strikes runs until early May 2023, six months after members finished voting.

The action is likely to disrupt patient care and increase operation waiting times, though nurses providing urgent and emergency care will be exempt from the strikes.

The three main hospital trusts in Dorset that will be affected by industrial action are:

  • University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust that runs Poole Hospital, Royal Bournemouth Hospital and Christchurch Hospital
  • Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust that runs Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester
  • Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust that runs community hospitals in Swanage, Weymouth, Bridport, Shaftesbury, Wimborne, Sherborne, Portland and Blandford

RCN members have also voted for strike action at

  • South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust
  • NHS Dorset Integrated Care Board – the organisation that took over in summer 2022 from Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group

Dorset County Hospital is likely to be affected by industrial action if there is no resolution to the dispute

Dispute is over pay

The strike ballot over pay was sent to 300,000 RCN members, representing around two-thirds of the nursing workforce.

The RCN is calling for a rise of 5 percent above the Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation rate, which is currently at 12 percent.

In England and Wales, NHS staff – including nurses – have been given an average increase of 4.75 percent with the lowest paid being guaranteed a rise of at least £1,400.

In Scotland, NHS staff were initially offered 5 percent, but that has been changed to a flat rate of just over £2,200, which works out at just over 8 percent for a newly qualified nurse.

In Northern Ireland, nurses are yet to receive a pay award because there is no working government.

Dorset County Hospital sign
Dorset County Hospital

The RCN says that urgent and emergency services will not be affected by strike action

Average pay of an NHS nurse is around £34,000

In England, a newly qualified nurse starts in Band 5 and will earn £27,055 a year and slightly more in London. Most nurses operate in Bands 5 and 6, while Band 7 and above tend to be management positions.

The RCN has estimated that an average NHS nurse’s pay is around £34,000.

The current banding scale

  • Band 5 – £27,055 to £32,934
  • Band 6 – £33,706 to £40,588
  • Band 7 – £41,659 to £47,672

The RCN claims experienced nurses are 20 percent worse off in real terms compared to a decade ago.

RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen
RCN

RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen

“This action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses”

RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said:

“This is a defining moment in our history, and our fight will continue through strike action and beyond for as long as it takes to win justice for the nursing profession and our patients.

“Anger has become action – our members are saying enough is enough. The voice of nursing in the UK is strong and I will make sure it is heard. Our members will no longer tolerate a financial knife-edge at home and a raw deal at work.

“Ministers must look in the mirror and ask how long they will put nursing staff through this. While we plan our strike action, next week’s budget is the UK government’s opportunity to signal a new direction with serious investment. Across the country, politicians have the power to stop this now and at any point.

“This action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses. Standards are falling too low and we have strong public backing for our campaign to raise them. This winter, we are asking the public to show nursing staff you are with us.”

“Our priority is keeping patients safe during any strikes”

Secretary of state for health and social care in England, Steve Barclay said he “deeply regretted” that some union members had voted for action.

“Our priority is keeping patients safe during any strikes. The NHS has tried and tested plans in place to minimise disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate.”

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