We stand in solidarity with nurses

SoR vice-president Tom Welton gives a personal view of the Royal College of Nursing’s industrial action in support of their pay claim

Published: 15 December 2022 Trade Union & IR

We are not nurses, but today I feel we all should stand in solidarity with them. The strikes called by the RCN (and potential future strikes of ambulance staff through GMB) have left me highly reflective.

What does it mean? Why does the media seem to get the wrong message? Where will my beloved place of work end up?

Although today nurses are on strike, Agenda for Change contracts mean the knock-on effect will span the whole NHS and the Society of Radiographers’ membership have a key stake in today’s action.

For me and for many, strike action comes at the top end of the ladder of negotiation, when the voice of the workforce isn’t being heard and drastic movement is needed to turn the eyes of the decision makers. I live relatively comfortably, a house, kids and just about enough money to fuel my car to get to work. Although this has become harder in recent months, it is easy to focus on pay.

Media outlets have looked at wages of nursing staff and their ‘greedy’ attitude to employment.

More than pay

The reality is much larger. For the past decade I have seen NHS staffing levels reach unsafe levels, professionals reaching burnout to keep services going and recruitment not keeping up with spiralling retention issues.

When the government talks about front line services, all NHS staff are represented in this, all staff provide the cogs of healthcare and when an institution can’t finance this, we have a broken system.

The nurses, and soon GMB comrades, heading out to the picket lines should highlight to all the concern these colleagues have for running a safe and effective healthcare system.

Nurses from the Royal College of Nursing strike for fair pay and working conditions in unprecedented industrial action by nurses outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on 15th December 2022 Birmingham

Nurses from the Royal College of Nursing strike for fair pay and working conditions outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on 15th December 2022 in Birmingham  (Mike Kemp/In Pictures/Getty Images)

I’m no economist but what I do see is billions spent to bail out banks, billions spent for PPE, test and trace and COVID response, but I see no movement whatsoever in ‘bailing out’ the staffing crisis our national healthcare service so drastically needs.

If the country and our government is serious about improving the living standards and health of the nation, we must see a change in policy.

I stand in solidarity with my comrades and support them on the picket line, not only because fairer pay is paramount for the wellbeing of the staff but because our healthcare system is damaged and is in the last few minutes before sinking. It MUST be fought for.

Diagnostic radiographer Tom Welton is the lead clinical educator at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, working alongside the undergraduate radiographer programme at The University of Cumbria. Tom is a certified industrial relations representative, as well as being a union learning rep, and he has successfully supported members through a range of consultations, service redesigns and improvements; work that led to him winning the SoR UK Rep of the Year award in 2018.

Teaser image: Richard Baker/In Pictures/Getty Images