The nurses' strike is about more than just pay – that’s the message from the picket lines outside Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI).

Thousands of nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have walked out today (Thursday, December 15) in the biggest strike in nursing history.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is calling for a five per cent above inflation payrise – but the Government insists the cost would be unaffordable.

Drivers in cars, buses and lorries could be heard honking their horns in support as they passed by the hospital.

Helen Peacock, a Bradford-based nurse of 30 years and representative for the RCN, spoke to the Telegraph & Argus.

Speaking about why nurses balloted to strike, Ms Peacock said: “We’re not happy the Government have not given us an adequate pay rise. We’re doing this for the patients to ensure the future of the NHS and to try retain the nurses we have in the NHS so we can give patients the excellent care they deserve.

“What’s important to me about striking today is to ensure the future of the NHS. We have young nurses coming in newly qualified who take a lot of responsibility, they’re finding it hard to retain these nurses on the wages they’re receiving.

“They do a very technical, very responsible job – we’re caring for human beings, there is no margin for error. We’ve come into the job because we care about the patients and it’s very important we can give them the correct care.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Nursing strike outside Bradford Royal InfirmaryNursing strike outside Bradford Royal Infirmary (Image: Newsquest)

“We want to ensure the future of the NHS, to retain the nurses that we have particularly the younger nurses who have just come into the profession, and to look after them whilst they’re young and still learning how to do the job correctly. We want to make sure they have a long and successful career.”

Christine Kelly, who has been a nurse for over 30 years, said: “I’m here today supporting my colleagues, it’s very much about staffing and conditions and the changes within the NHS. As nurses we haven’t really asked for that much over the years. We’ve put up with a lot, we’ve put up with pay cuts. We’re really just wanting the Government to listen to what people are saying.”

One ICU nurse, who has worked at the BRI for 30 years, said: “It means to me I’ve been put in a position I never thought we’d be in. I’m having to give up a day’s wage and potentially many days wages to have decent working conditions for NHS staff and to be able to provide a service for the future.”

The nurse told how his niece, daughter and sister in law are all student nurses.

“I want them to be paid enough so they can afford a car, a house, afford to care for people," he said.

“I’m disappointed that it’s come to that I have to come out.

“We would rather a short-term loss for a long-term gain that we have a service fit for the public and the needs of its staff.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Our nurses are incredibly dedicated to their job and it is deeply regrettable some union members are going ahead with strike action.

“My number one priority is to keep patients safe – I’ve been working across government and with medics outside the public sector to ensure safe staffing levels - but I do remain concerned about the risk that strikes pose to patients.

“Nevertheless, the NHS is open and patients should continue to seek urgent medical care - and attend appointments, unless they’ve been contacted by the NHS.

“These are challenging times but we have accepted the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body in full to give nurses a pay rise of at least £1,400 – on top of a three per cent pay rise last year when wider public sector pay was frozen.

“Further pay increases would mean taking money away from frontline services at a time when we are tackling record waiting lists as a result of the pandemic.”

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (BTHFT) said hospitals will be prioritising emergency care during strike action today and Tuesday, December 20.

Have you got a story for us? Email or contact us here.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up with all the latest news.

Sign up to our newsletter to get updates sent straight to your inbox.

You can also call us on 01274 705292.