December 14, 2022

100,000 UK Nurses to Participate in Historic First Ever Strike

100,000 UK Nurses to Participate in Historic First Ever Strike

Image Source: Time 

For the first time in 106 years, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in England has decided to strike after a historic vote of more than 300,000 union members took place in early November. 

On Thursday, December 15th as many as 100,000 members will walk out across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in the first of two days of strikes. The second-day of the strike will occur on December 20th. Nurses are striking to specifically protest poor pay and working conditions.

“It is pretty unprecedented,” said Billy Palmer, a senior fellow at Nuffield Trust, a health research firm. While there have been countless strikes in recent months throughout the U.S., the strike in England will be the first because, for most of its history, RCN had a “no strike” policy. The union changed its rules in 1995, allowing strikes to occur. However, any strikes must not compromise patient care. 

What Has Led UK Nurses to Strike?

Image: Nurses in England

In hopes of averting a strike, RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen met with Health Secretary Steve Barclay on December 12th in hopes of beginning formal pay negotiations. However, Barclay refused to discuss pay. Cullen said, “I asked several times to discuss pay and each time we returned to the same thing – that there was no extra money on the table, and that they would not be discussing pay with me.”

“The government was true to its word – they would not talk to me about pay,” Cullen said. “I needed to come out of this meeting with something serious to show nurses why they should not strike this week. Regrettably, they are not getting an extra penny."

Cullen said in a statement, “Anger has become action – our members are saying enough is enough. The voice of nursing in the UK is strong and I will make sure it is heard. Our members will no longer tolerate a financial knife-edge at home and a raw deal at work.”

The RCN is asking for a pay raise of 5% above the RPI inflation rate. According to reports, the NHS staff in England and Wales have already been given an average pay increase of 4.75%.

According to the BBC, the starting salary for a nurse in England is just over £27,000 a year. This is roughly $33,500, which is significantly less than most nurses in the United States. Additionally, nurses with specialized training such as those that can treat cancer or diabetes can make upwards of £47,000. 

Image: BBC

Image: Pat Cullen, RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive

Nurses are not the only workers in England with planned strikes in December. Rail staff, postal workers, and ambulance drivers all have planned upcoming strikes. At the heart of most of the strikes is the fact that wages have not kept pace with the rising inflation. In October, inflation hit a record 41-year high of 11.1%.

According to researchers at London Economics, over 25,000 nurses left the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register in the last year. In addition, there were 47,000 unfilled nursing positions. The study found that the ongoing shortage is mostly due to poor pay, stating that nurses in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland were 20% worse compared to ten years earlier. 

“What’s happened is that year after year, nurses and public sector workers have experienced a gradual erosion, thanks to pay freezes or pay increases of less than 1%,” explained Gavan Gavan Conlon, a co-author of the study commissioned by the RCN. “Quite honestly, it’s a pretty shocking state of affairs over such a long period of time.” 

“We are all hugely grateful for the hard work and dedication of NHS staff, including nurses, and deeply regret that some union members have voted for industrial action,” said Steve Barclay, the Health Minister, in a public statement

While it appears that the strike will go on as planned, the NHS and UK Border Force have asked the military to help keep all health services running. 

Official UK Nurse Strike Information

The first round of strikes will go ahead in 51 of 219 hospitals, mental health trusts and community services in England. There will be no action in trusts in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, East Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, the Manchester area, Buckinghamshire, Norfolk or Suffolk.

Image: Nurses Prepare to Strike

Hospitals Where UK Nurses Are Striking

According to the Official Strike Website, the following hospitals are expected to strike:


East Midlands

  • Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

  • NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICB 

  • Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust 

  • Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust 

  • Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust 


  • Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust -

  • Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust 

  • Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust 

  • NHS Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB 

  • Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 


  • Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust

  • Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust 

  • Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust 

  • NHS North Central London ICB 

  • Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust 

North West

  • Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust 

  • Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Found Trust 

  • Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

  • Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust 

  • Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust 

  • The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Found Trust 

  • The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust 


  • Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust 

  • Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust 

  • The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

South East

  • Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust 

  • Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust 

South West

  • Devon Partnership NHS Trust 

  • Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust 

  • Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

  • Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

  • NHS Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire ICB (BSW Together) 

  • NHS Devon ICB (One Devon) 

  • NHS Gloucestershire ICB (One Gloucestershire) 

  • North Bristol NHS Trust 

  • Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust 

  • Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust 

  • Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust 

  • University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust

  • University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust 

West Midlands

  • Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust 

  • Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust 

  • NHS Birmingham and Solihull ICB (BSol ICB) 

  • The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

  • University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust 

  • Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust 

Yorkshire & Humber

  • Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

  • Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust 

  • The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust 

National employers

  • Health Education England

  • NHS England 

Northern Ireland

  • Belfast Health and Social Care Trust 

  • Northern Health and Social Care Trust 

  • Western Health and Social Care Trust 

  • Southern Health and Social Care Trust 

  • South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust 

  • Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council

  • Business Services Organisation

  • Regulation & Quality Improvement Authority

  • Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service

  • Public Health Agency

  • Northern Ireland Ambulance Service 


  • Cardiff and Vale University Health Board 

  • Powys Teaching Local Health Board 

  • Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust Headquarters 

  • Hywel Dda University Health Board 

  • Swansea Bay University Health Board 

  • Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board 

  • Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board 

  • Velindre NHS Trust

  • Public Health Wales

  • Health Education and Improvement Wales Health Authority

  • NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership

  • Digital Health and Care Wales contacted the RCN for comment and will update this article once a statement is available.

Youtube video

Go to the top of page