After the Royal College of Nursing announced that nurses at the majority of NHS employers had voted in favour of strike action, new research by Ipsos shows a majority of Britons support the strike action with 59% in favour and just under a quarter (24%) opposing it.
Despite high levels of support, many believe the requested pay rise amount is too high. The Royal College of Nursing has requested a 5% pay rise for NHS nurses on top of inflation, making it a total pay rise of about 17%. Nearly half of Britons say this is too high (47%) while 38% say it is about right and 9% say it is too low.
Older Britons are most likely to say the amount requested is too high (57% of 55-75s say this compared to 38% of 18-34s and 40% of 35-44s). There are also differences along party lines, with 64% of 2019 Conservative voters saying the pay rise of 17% is too high compared with just 37% of 2019 Labour voters.
An increase in pay is overwhelmingly seen as the main reason for the planned nurse strike action – 82% see this as the key cause. Secondary perceived reasons for striking include thinking it is for more money to be spent on the NHS (40%), for more nurses to be trained (33%), or for better standards of patient care (31%). Around one in ten think it is for shorter working hours (13%) or due to the influence of unions (11%). Only 7% believe the strikes are planned in order to challenge the government because nurses disagree with them politically.
Despite many saying the amount the RCN is asking for on behalf of nurses is too high, around 7 in 10 (71%) say an increase in pay is an acceptable reason to strike, while only 16% say it is unacceptable. Striking for an increase in pay is almost as acceptable as striking for a better standard of care for patients, with 74% seeing standards of care as an acceptable reason to strike and only 13% disagreeing.
News about the planned nurses’ strike action has reached many, with two-thirds of Britons saying they have heard a fair amount or great deal about the strikes (65%) and one-third saying they have heard not very much or nothing at all (33%).
Kate Duxbury, Research Director at Ipsos, said:
The public’s strong support for NHS staff shines through, with a majority supportive of the planned strike action. However, while most think nurses are going to strike for an increase in pay, and this is seen as an acceptable reason to strike, almost half think the requested pay rise is too high. Against this backdrop, it remains to be seen how the public will respond to the strikes once they, and those they love, feel the impacts – but the affinity they feel with nurses should not be underestimated.