NHS workers went on strike for the first time in 30 years – but why?

Thousands of NHS staff have been on strike this morning over pay for the first time in 32 years.

It’s also the first time midwives have gone on strike.


The independent NHS Pay Review Body recommended staff should have a 1% pay rise from 1 April 2014. However Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt ignored this, instead choosing to award the 1% rise to roughly half of NHS personnel.

For some staff, this 1% is awarded more as a bonus and isn’t being consolidated into their pay – meaning it’s not being paid on overtime or unsocial hours, or count towards their pension.

Jeremy Hunt today has defended his decision not to increase pay for NHS workers, saying he would have to sack the equivalent of 14,000 nurses to be able to award the 1% pay increase, despite the NHS Pay Review Body saying the organisation could afford the rise.

Unison has created a tool which lets NHS workers see how much they’ve lost in pay freezes in the past and how much they stand to lose.

What’s happening?

Staff were on strike for four hours between 7am and 11am. We don’t yet know the full impact as it’s not clear yet how many staff walked out, however unions said patient care and safety would not be compromised.

In London, ambulances have been driven by 100 military personnel and there were 74 police vehicles responding to low-level medical call outs. Managers have been taking on frontline roles and private ambulances have also been called in.

Is this it?

No, there’ll be another strike on Monday 20 October affecting only radiographers, meaning patients may not get their scans at the scheduled time on that day.

It’s also likely that other workers will choose to strike again as the results of their ballots legally allow them to do so. Unions are meeting on Tuesday 21 October to decide whether a second strike is needed.

What’s the public view?

Unlike other public sector strikes, NHS staff have received overwhelming support, according to polls and comments. A Survation poll commissioned by the union Unite found 65% of the public thought a below-inflation cap on wages was unfair, with 61% of people thinking a strike was justified.

But what do you think? Were the workers right to strike? Let us know on Facebook or in the comments below.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Anonymous

    If you remove the public workers from the survey, then bet it comes out as a lot fewer people supporting the strike!

    The country is fighting back from near bankruptcy caused by the last government, the private sector has to generate the income to pay public sector workers. Till we see a real and maintainable improvement in the economy, then pay rises are out of the question for the majority in either sector.

    Or in simple terms we have been both overspending and overpaying ourselves!

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