Nurses in England are today taking part in a 48-hour strike, in the latest chapter of their never-ending pay dispute with No10.
More than 30,000 NHS workers are expected to take to picket lines, in what insiders believe will be the biggest day of industrial action to ever hit the health service.
Meanwhile up to 10,000 ambulance workers are holding their own industrial action.
Union bosses says their members need an inflation-busting pay boost to cope with the cost of living crisis and fix NHS staffing gaps. But ministers have refused to budge, claiming the 4 per cent offered is all the country can afford, and any more would come at the cost of patient services.
Here, MailOnline answers your questions on the nurses strike stalemate.
This graph shows the average nurses’ pay for a host of European countries as of 2020, taking into account how expensive it is to live in each nation. The UK, at £30,880, comes just under the European average of £31,600 but is almost half the top runner, Luxembourg, which pays an average of £59,790
Royal College of Nursing members striking at St Thomas’ Hospital in London today
Nurses strike at St Thomas’ Hospital in London as part of the ongoing row over pay and conditions
How much do NHS nurses earn compared to the rest of Europe?
The latest international comparison puts the average UK nurses’ annual pay at around £30,880 in 2020.
This is just behind the EU average for the same period (£31,600).
Both figures were calculated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in December last year.
This report used data from 20 EU countries and five more from the wider European area, like the UK.
The OECD calculated the value of the nurses’ wages in terms of how much it costs to live in that nation, a method called purchasing power parity.
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This allows a comparison between how much the average nurse’s salary is worth in a country that is more expensive to live with one where it is cheaper.
Luxembourg topped the list for nurses’ pay, with health professionals there earning the equivalent of £59,790.
This was followed by Belgium with £55,700 and the Netherlands with £45,290.
Britain came in 12th overall, just behind Slovenia where nurses earned the equivalent of £33,330 but ahead of Poland where they earned £30,340.
The OECD also compared how a nurses’ salary stacked up in comparison to the average wage of each nation.
Across the EU, nurses earned 20 per cent more than the average salary in the bloc.
In comparison, UK nurses earned dead-on the average British wage in 2020, similar to nations like Italy and Portugal.
Nurses in Belgium topped the charts earning 60 per cent more than the average wage, followed by Luxembourg and Spain where the health professionals there each earned 50 per cent more than the average worker.
Why does it matter what nurses elsewhere in Europe earn?
Two reasons: recruitment and retention.
In terms of retention, if a significant number of Britain’s neighbours offer a comparatively higher wage than the NHS, nurses could be tempted to leave and go to work there, exacerbating existing staff shortages.
And in terms of recruitment, the UK is just one nation competing for international nurses from countries like India and the Philippines to shore up its domestic nursing workforce.
If the UK fails to offer a competitive salary it could struggle to attract international nursing recruits.
This could be devastating, and indeed over the past few years Britain has become increasingly reliant on overseas trained nurses.
The latest data shows the number of international nurses registering to work in the UK is nearing parity with British-trained nurses for the first time.
Data from the nursing regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, shows the UK is increasingly turning to international recruits to boost staff numbers. This year the number of international nurse recruits nearly equalled the number British nurses joining the profession for the first time ever. The data also shows the number of internationally trained nurses signing on in the UK has increased year-on-year, minus a blip of the Covid pandemic which hampered immigration
How much more cash do UK nurses want?
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) bosses have campaigned for a pay rise for their members that is 5 per cent above inflation.
With inflation skyrocketing late last year this put the union’s demand at a whopping 19.2 per cent pay rise, though it has since fallen slightly to 18.4 per cent.
If accepted it would see the average nurses’ salary go from around £37,000 to £43,800, an increase of nearly £7,000.
The £37,000 figure is a Government estimate for what the average nurse in England earns currently.
VOTE HERE Are NHS staff taking the never-ending pay dispute too far by striking on the SAME day? Vote here and tell us why…
More than 40,000 nurses, paramedics and emergency call handlers are taking part in the coordinated strike action today. Pictured above, nurses on the picket line outside St Thomas’ Hospital, London on February 6
In comparison the OECD estimate was for the whole of the UK in 2020 and also accounts for cost of living.
Union chiefs have hinted that they could accept a pay rise of less than half of their 18.4 per cent demand if the Government commits to negotiations.
Strike action in Wales, which was due to be held today and tomorrow, was cancelled at the 11th-hour after the Government there offered nurses an additional 3 per cent.
However, ministers in England have so far refused to discuss pay for the current financial year.
Is it all about pay?
No. Union bosses have also framed the dispute as part of an effort to save the NHS, which is struggling with patient demand alongside tens of thousands of staff vacancies.
Nurses on the picket lines have highlighted issues with working conditions.
They have said the stresses of being understaffed and being unable to look after patients as they would like as they rush from emergency to emergency are making them consider quitting the profession.
Others have said it is wrong that hospitals have had to set up internal food banks to help staff during the cost of living crisis.
What has the Government offered?
No10 has said the 4 per cent offered for the 2022/23 financial year is all the nation can afford.
This is equivalent to an extra £1,400, an increase that was backed by the independent NHS Pay Review Body.
Ministers have repeatedly warned any additional rise beyond this would have to come out of existing NHS budgets, meaning less services for patients.
Downing Street has hinted that next year’s pay negotiations could be more generous, while insisting it must stick to the 4 per cent rise for this year.
When is the next pay hike?
NHS staff are due for another pay rise in April at the start of the financial year.
However, this is unlikely to be paid on time.
Last week the head of the NHS Pay Review Body told MPs that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had missed a critical deadline to submit its evidence for the next pay round.
The body works by taking submissions or evidence from unions, the Government, and the NHS on the level of pay is needed to attract enough staff to run the health service, versus what ministers say the nation can afford.
From this work, which is now ongoing without the DHSC’s input, the body makes a recommendation on pay to the Government which it can then accept or reject.
While the NHS Pay Review Body chair Philippa Hird said it was still committed to meeting its deadline to publish their recommendation by April it is unlikely that ministers will sign it off immediately.
This would mean that any pay increase implemented by Government would need to be backdated to April from later in the year.
How many more times will nurses strike?
Nurses in England are due to strike again tomorrow.
No further dates have been announced as of yet for any UK nation.
However, the RCN has said strikes will continue for ‘as long as it takes’.
Are lives being put in danger by the nurses’ strikes?
No. NHS staff strikes operate under a system called derogation, where members of unions are made exempt from industrial action, to keep the public safe.
This means a minimum level of staffing is agreed with the NHS to ensure life and limb care, like emergency services, are maintained as well as there being enough staff to look after patients already in hospital.
However, Maria Caulfield, minister for mental health and women’s health strategy, has urged the RCN to call off the strikes as patients lives would be put at risk the longer action rumbled on.
She said: ‘There is a risk to patients the longer that strikes go on.
‘So if your operation is cancelled the first time, there is probably a minimum risk.
‘If that’s cancelled time and time again because of ongoing strikes, then patients become more poorly and there is always a risk.’
Who else is striking today?
Unions representing NHS ambulance staff are also holding strike action.
An estimated 11,500 ambulance staff who are members of GMB and Unite are staging walkouts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Unlike the RCN, which is also due to strike tomorrow, the action by ambulance staff is only being held today.
Where are the strikes happening?
RCN members are striking at 73 NHS trusts and ambulance services across England today and tomorrow.
Specific ambulance strikes are being held at eight ambulance trusts in England, as well as those in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Ambulance workers are also striking today, like those from union GMB on the picket line outside Gateshead Ambulance Station
Where are the strikes today?
NURSES STRIKES ON FEBRUARY 6 AND 7
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust
Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust
Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust
St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation TrusT
Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Found Trust
St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust
North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust
Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Found Trust – 6 Feb / 7 Feb
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Found Trust
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust
Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust
Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust
The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust
Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust
North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust
University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust
Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust
University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust
Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust
South East Coast Ambulance Service
South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust
University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust
Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust
Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust
Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust
North Bristol NHS Trust
Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust
Somerset NHS Foundation Trust
South Western Ambulance Service NHS Found Trust
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust
The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
AMBULANCE STRIKES ON FEBRUARY 6
East Midlands Ambulance Service
North East Ambulance Service
North West Ambulance Service
West Midlands Ambulance Service
South East Coast Ambulance Service
South Central Ambulance Service
South Western Ambulance Service
Yorkshire Ambulance Service
Wales Ambulance Service