Staff from seven unions in England took part in the four hour walk-out on Monday 13 October and many followed this up on Tuesday with four days of work-to-rule. This involves staff ensuring that they take their breaks and also refusing to work overtime without extra pay.
An estimated 400,000 nurses, midwives and other frontline staff members set up pickets outside hospitals across the UK, and the military and police were brought in to help where needed.
It is still unclear how much effect the strike had on NHS services, but unions claimed that disruption was minimised and no major incidents were reported.
Union leaders argue that NHS staff have to deal with an increasing amount of pressure, and are struggling to deal with rising demands for healthcare. Tired and overworked staff are much more likely to make mistakes and high-stress work environments can put patients in danger.
Furthermore, the unions say that they want to give the government a clear message that changes need to be made and standards need to improve. And perhaps understandably, they have come to the conclusion that industrial action will get the government to sit up and listen.
However, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned that raising the pay for NHS staff would result in redundancies further down the line. He pointed to research indicating that more than 14,000 jobs would be lost by the end of next year if recommendations by an independent pay review board were implemented in full. Such severe cuts would inevitably place even more pressure on the staff that remain.
Hunt added that 5,000 extra nurses were recruited last year and he argued that this will help to ensure the NHS doesn’t suffer another horrific scandal like Mid Staffs. After the terrible tragedy that happened at the Stafford hospital, staff shortages have become a key battleground throughout the NHS and all efforts need to be taken to make sure that staffing levels are sufficient.
At Fletchers we continue to support the invaluable services that frontline healthcare staff provide on a day-to-day basis. The government is in a difficult situation because some form of action needs to be taken to ensure that our NHS isn’t pushed too far.
Relieving the pressure that is being piled on nurses is vital, and whether this be through hiring more staff or increasing the pay of the existing workforce, it is clear that change is needed. Union leaders and government members need to come together and discuss how to take the NHS forward.