The Royal College of Nursing on Wednesday confirmed that it would take the first UK-wide strike action in its 106 year history.

The RNC balloted 300,000 members for action over pay. In July, the UK government announced that more than 1mn staff — including nurses — would receive a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year backdated to April 2022. But the union has urged the government to introduce a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation.

“We are all hugely grateful for the hard work and dedication of NHS staff, including nurses, and deeply regret that some union members have voted for industrial action,” said health secretary Steve Barclay in response to the news.

He added: “Our priority is keeping patients safe during any strikes. The NHS has tried and tested plans in place to minimise disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate.”

Speaking ahead of the decision on Wednesday, prime minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson said it was “deeply regrettable that some union members are considering this action”. Number 10 said the government was committed to giving nurses a “fair” pay award but said that the union demands would cost £9bn and this was “simply not deliverable”.

Contingency plans to deal with a possible strike are being led by the Cabinet Office, the Department of Health and the NHS.

Earlier this week, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden said that in the event of a strike “well-oiled contingencies” were in place, with essential services prioritised.

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