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Striking matters

Pat Cullen 27 Jan 2023 Safe staffing Chief Executive and General Secretary

You should be proud of yourselves as you continue to balance strike action with your commitment to deliver safe care.

Pat Cullen on picket line January 2023 strikes

A report this week from the Office for National Statistics revealed the stark truth about the current NHS crisis. The number of weekly deaths recorded in England and Wales is nearly 20% higher than normal.

Let me be clear: the NHS crisis engulfing the UK has not been created by our strike action. It didn’t happen overnight, it’s been a long, slow burn taking hold in full sight, and yet the government continues to do nothing to try and extinguish the flames.

That is why we’ve held four days of strike action in recent weeks, and why we will continue to strike until ministers step up, acknowledge the crisis and put together a plan to not only address it but resolve it once and for all.

That process begins with them meeting me at the negotiating table to start meaningful conversations about your pay. A fair pay offer will not only support you now but will help you plan for your future and will encourage others to join the nursing profession.

Without immediate and significant action, the flames ignited by decades of underinvestment and fuelled by years of inaction will further engulf the nursing workforce and patient safety will continue to suffer.

I felt invigorated during last week’s strikes as I spent time with you on picket lines in England. Thank you once again for your warm welcome and your wise words. Your personal reasons for taking a stand make me ever more determined to make sure your personal sacrifices will lead to meaningful and lasting change.

Ministers cannot fail to recognise the significance of thousands of members, patients and the public turning up to picket lines. The groundswell of support continues, and it reflects the mood not just of our profession, but of the nation.

As an organisation, our aim is to increase and improve the ways in which we support you as we navigate these unchartered waters. Take a look at our regularly updated FAQs and visit our Strike Hub for all you need to know in order to prepare ahead of the next strike dates.

This week, your President Sheilabye Sobrany and I welcomed Labour MP and Deputy Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Wes Streeting, to an event at RCN HQ to meet with members for an opportunity to speak about some of the issues that we are facing.

Our strike fund is here to support you as you sacrifice your wages to join a picket line. If you’re taking strike action, you can apply through our benefit fund for each day you strike. A new portal that enables these essential claims to be submitted and processed more easily will launch next week. Full details can be found in our Strike Hub.

Our annual Congress will take place in Brighton from 14-18 May 2023. Whether you've attended before or you're a first timer, now is the time to come together with other members at our annual event, RCN Congress. Conversations around nursing are shifting because of your efforts – your voice needs to continue to be heard on the issues that matter most.

I’d like to remind you that everybody has the right to strike and taking part in industrial action is a last resort when things aren’t right or fair.

Our strike action is safe for you, and safe for your patients. If anyone suggests you cannot take strike action, they are wrong, and you have not only the backing of the Royal College of Nursing, but my own personal support in challenging those who try to deter you from striking for fair pay and safe patient care.

Pat Cullen

Pat Cullen

General Secretary and Chief Executive

Pat has worked at the RCN since 2016. Before being appointed General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat was Director of RCN Northern Ireland from May 2019 to April 2021.

Page last updated - 27/06/2023