British nurses strike as winter looms

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British nurses strike as winter looms

A man received a dose of Moderna COVID 19 vaccine on December 16, 2021 at Babington Hospital in Belper. OLI SCARFF AFP GOSPORT, England LONDON - Chukwudubem Ifeajuna, a nurse in the south of England, loves his job but next month will walk out for two days as part of British nurses' biggest strike action, which he says is necessary for staff and patient welfare alike.

The industrial action on December 15 and December 20 is unprecedented in the British nursing union's 106 year history, and comes as the state-owned National Health Service NHS prepares for one of its toughest winters ever.

Ifeajuna has seen members of his team leave to work in supermarkets where there is less stress and better pay, while he has had to cut back on spending.

There are a number of staff who are using food banks at the moment. I have had to cut down on a lot of things with the kids, which I can't afford to provide for them because of the high cost of living. He told Reuters that it's really tough for everyone, not just myself.

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We deserve better pay because we are striking. Strike action is also impacting Britain's education, postal and rail sectors as workers struggle with soaring prices.

Patricia Marquis, director of the Royal College of Nursing RCN union in England, said the government must listen.

She told Reuters that this is not something nurses do at the drop of a hat.

After a string of below-inflation pay awards, the RCN says that experienced nurses like Ifeajuna are 20 percent worse off in real terms than they were in 2010 and are seeking a pay-rise of 5 percent above RPI retail price index inflation.

According to October's inflation data, that would amount to a payrise of 19.2 percent. The RCN demands would cost 10 billion pounds $12.14 billion a year and are unaffordable, according to the government.

Without higher pay, staff would continue to leave the profession, increasing the pressure on those who remain and damaging patient care, according to the Marquis of the RCN.

Billy Palmer, who is now a health think-tank at the Nuffield Trust, told Reuters that those who are considering leaving often cite issues around not having enough staff to do a good job, but their departure further exacerbates the staffing problem.

He said it's the most vicious cycle.

Ifeajuna said he has sometimes considered quitting.

I had to pause for a minute and say I can't leave my patients every time I've had the chance. He said I can't leave my colleagues to suffer alone.