LETTER:Nurses have the right to strike over local pay bargaining

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From Mrs Daphne Fox

Sir: In response to today's leading article ("When being cross is not enough", 17 May), which favours local pay bargaining between hospital and trusts to produce "the flexibility to offer the patient the best possible service", I would wish to question what this "flexibility" actually means for the manager, nurse and patient.

Nurses know that "flexibility" for managers means the ability to employ fewer qualified staff and at lower pay grades than their experience would indicate. For nurses, flexibility can mean reapplying for a job one has done for years, having to accept more responsibility for less pay, and working with inexperienced and briefly trained colleagues. It especially means no acknowledgement of national standards and loss of collective pay bargaining. For patients, flexibility already means a reduction in human response and skilled care, minimum comfort and dangerously low staffing levels.

Your leader says of nurses that they "would need to consult their consciences in a way that, for instance, miners would not". As a nurse, I see little difference between industrial action by nurses or miners - reducing people's ability to maintain their essential bodily comfort is not to be undertaken lightly by either and has similar effects - but the right to withdraw labour as a last-ditch action against an uncomprehending and ruthless employer is a basic right.

Nurses will not benefit patients by submitting to emotional blackmail from the press or elsewhere - they will rather accelerate an already rapid decline in patient care. If nurses really care what happens to patients, they must be prepared, if driven to it, to take industrial action, albeit modified, and the inevitable flak which will follow.

Yours faithfully,



East Sussex

17 May