The Week - Junior

The biggest strike in NHS history


On 6 February, around 40,000 nurses and ambulance workers in England went on strike at the same time for the first time ever, creating the biggest walkout in NHS history. This follows strikes in December 2022.

Who went on strike?

The strikes were organised by unions (organisati­ons that represent workers’ rights in particular jobs or industries).

Ambulance workers in the GMB and Unite unions went on strike on 6 and 10 February. Five more strike days are planned for February and March by three unions representi­ng ambulance workers from around the UK. Nurses from England, represente­d by the Royal College of Nursing, went on strike 6-7 February. Physiother­apists (experts who treat injuries or conditions that affect people’s movement) went on strike on 9 February.

Why are they striking?

Health workers are protesting about low pay and bad working conditions. Former NHS nurse Angela Unufe told The Guardian newspaper there are “dangerousl­y low numbers” of nurses because “no one wants to work for peanuts (very little money)”. Ambulance workers say they are wasting time outside hospitals for beds to be free instead of picking up more patients. They are asking for more money for the whole NHS. Paramedic Simon Day told the BBC that they want to provide, “Not a minimum standard of care but the best care they can”.

How did people respond?

The UK Government says that its offer of a 4.8% pay rise for NHS workers is fair. Unions disagree and have criticised Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for not talking to them. Head of the Royal College of Nursing, Pat Cullen, told Sunak to “come to the table and negotiate” if he wants to stop the strikes. Labour leader Keir Starmer said the strikes are “a badge of shame for the Government”, especially when people are struggling with the cost of living.

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Striking nurses protesting.
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