Would an NHS strike be a risk to patient safety?

Previous studies have suggested healthcare worker strikes have little effect on rates of patient deaths, writes Rebecca Thomas

Tuesday 09 August 2022 19:04 BST
<p>Junior doctor on picket line during previous strike of NHS staff</p>

Junior doctor on picket line during previous strike of NHS staff

This week the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unite union have launched ballots for their healthcare worker members over pursuing strike action after the government failed to meet requests for an above-inflation pay rise. Unite represents at least 100,000 NHS workers, while the RCN represents almost 500,000 nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants and nursing students throughout the UK. As the NHS faces the prospect of unprecedented strike action from healthcare workers, what would the impact be?

Should the RCN members vote to strike it would be the first action taken since 1988 by nurses in England – and comes after the profession took to the picket line in Northern Ireland in 2019. The government may also face threats of strike action from consultants and junior doctors, although the latter is more likely.

The issue is contentious, with some already suggesting possible risk to patient safety should the strikes occur during winter. On the other hand, there is the argument that strikes are valid as the level of staffing shortages in the NHS are a risk to patient safety.

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