British nurses announce unprecedented strike

STORY: Thousands of British nurses will go on strike in December – according to their union on Friday.

An unprecedented move in their union’s century long history coming on the cusp of what looks to be a tough winter for Britain’s National Health Service.

The nurses say it’s the first of several possible walkouts in a dispute over pay and unsafe staffing levels as the UK sinks deeper into its cost-of-living crisis.

Nurse Chukwudubem Ifeajuna works for the NHS in southern England and says he’ll be joining.

“I've 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. So it's really, really tough for everyone, not just myself, (also) my colleagues out there, you've got a few nurses leaving as well to go to work in supermarkets because they will be paid better.”

Pay rises for nurses have failed to keep up with inflation soaring at 10%.

Downing Street says demands for extra spending on the NHS, to raise staff pay to 5% above inflation, were simply not affordable.

Now the Royal College of Nursing – representing 300,000 nurses – has voted to strike, joining picket lines also growing in Britain’s rail, postal and education sectors.

The winter ahead also looks especially tough for the NHS.

There’s a record backlog of 7 million patients, amid the global health crisis.

Billy Palmer at the Nuffield Trust health think tank says morale is low as patient care has been put at risk.

“You've got a lot of people leaving because of, you know, being under too much pressure, for example, or those who are considering leaving. They often cite issues around not having enough staff to do a good job, for example.”

Despite being passionate about his job, his patients and his colleagues, Ifeajuna says he has sometimes considered quitting, too.

“But each time I've had a chance, I sort of had to pause for a minute and say, I can't leave my patients. I can't leave my colleagues to suffer alone.”