Last month the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) elected more than 300,000 of its members in the largest vote so far in the union’s 106-year history.
The final results will be announced in the coming days and union officials expect support for strike action to prevail for the first time.
So what exactly can we expect when nurses go on strike?
What would strike actions by nurses look like?
At the moment it is not known exactly what form the strike action would take, but the RCN has previously announced that it will involve a total disengagement of its members’ workforce.
A work-to-rule – fulfilling only the minimum contractual requirements of a person’s role – was ruled out by the RCN. This was “industrial action shortly before a strike,” it said.
In either case, patients are likely to be disrupted during surgeries and appointments.
When would nurses go on strike?
No official strike dates have yet been confirmed, but action is expected to be in place within weeks, possibly before Christmas.
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Who could take part in the strikes?
The RCN said on his website that anyone on the Agenda for Change from an NHS employer with whom it is in dispute can participate.
Would all nurses participate in the strike action?
Voting for strike action does not mean that every nurse has to go on strike, although they will have the choice to do so.
On any strike days, however, minimum staffing levels would be maintained and determined by the life-sustaining care model.
The model ensures that emergency treatment and care continues to take place and patients’ lives are not endangered.
Could agency workers be drafted to represent striking workers?
Agency staff have been asked by the RCN not to represent striking workers, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used to fill vacancies.
Cabinet Secretary Oliver Dowden said the government had contingency plans in place to deal with a potential nurses’ strike.
“We have well-oiled contingencies and the Department of Health is clear on how we would deal with such a scenario should it materialize,” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday.
“We’re going to make sure we prioritize the most important services – emergency services and so on. But of course such a strike would have repercussions.”
how did we get here
Nurses have been locked in a dispute with the government over pay for several months.
According to RCN, an analysis by London Economics has shown that nurses’ salaries have fallen twice as fast as in the private sector over the past decade.
Real earnings for nurses have fallen 6%, compared with 3.2% for private sector employees, it was found.
What are nurses asking the government to do?