Nurses across much of the UK launched a historic strike on Thursday, as they walked out of hospitals and onto picket lines after several years of falling pay and declining standards left the country’s nationalized health care system in a state of crisis.
As many as 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) – the UK’s biggest nursing union – are taking industrial action in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in the latest and most unprecedented of a wave of strikes that has swept Britain this winter. It is the largest strike in the RCN’s 106-year history.
But it comes after several years of hardship for employees of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), a revered but beleaguered institution that is straining due to staffing shortfalls, sky-high demand and stretched funding.
“I went into nursing to care for patients, and over the years my capacity to provide the level of care my patients deserve has been compromised,” Andrea Mackay, who has worked as a nurse for seven years at a hospital in southwest England, told CNN on her reasons for striking Thursday.