Employment

Nurse and ambulance strikes are supported by more than two-thirds of the British public, says YouGov

Brits are supporting the nurses' strikes, despite opposition from government ministers and Labour frontbenchers

NHS nurses hold placards expressing their opinion during a protest outside St. Thomas' Hospital in central London on day one of the two strikes taking place this month.

Thousands of nurses across the country are striking in a dispute over pay and working conditions, making it the largest strike in NHS history. Image: Steve Taylor/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Two-thirds of Britons support nurses striking for better pay, according to a new survey, and most blame the government for the strikes on December 15 and 20, the first in the 106-year history of the Royal College of Nursing.

Government ministers, newspaper columnists and some Labour frontbenchers have voiced their opposition to the strikes in recent days as NHS staff look for a pay rise to make up for more than a decade of real-terms wage cuts.

“Nursing staff have had enough of being taken for granted, enough of low pay and unsafe staffing levels, enough of not being able to give our patients the care they deserve”, said Pat Cullen, general secretary of the RCN, in the build up to the strikes.

Strikes by ambulance drivers, due on December 21, are also supported by a majority of Britons (63 per cent) according to the survey carried out by YouGov between December 16 and 19.

Unions are looking for a pay rise of 5 per cent over inflation after 12 years of government cuts to health budgets. Ministers have so far refused to negotiate.

“The RCN’s demands are unaffordable during these challenging times and would take money away from frontline services while they are still recovering from the impact of the pandemic,” said Health Secretary Steve Barclay.

NHS bosses have warned for years that services are struggling to keep up with demand as central funding has been cut. Many GPs now only see patients in emergencies and hospital waiting lists have been described as “outrageous” by local leaders across the country.

The number of nurses and midwives quitting their jobs has risen for the first time in four years – suggesting conditions are even worse than during the pandemic. On average, 500 nurses are leaving every week.

Severely understaffed wards are not only causing extreme stress and burnout, says the RCN, but are impacting the safety of patients and the quality of the treatment they can receive.

Support for the strikes rises to almost 9 in 10 Labour voters, according to the polling, but is evenly split among Conservative voters.

A majority (58 per cent) of Britons also support strikes by firefighters, but strikes among other sectors are less popular.

Support for striking rail workers has dropped to 43 per cent, with 49 per cent opposed, and 36 per cent support strikers from Transport for London.

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