Support for nurse strikes falls – though still outweighs opposition – as half say the pay rise they’re asking for is too high

As nurses hold the biggest strike in NHS history, how do the public feel about the action?

The author(s)
  • Kate Duxbury Public Affairs
  • Laura King Public Affairs
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As thousands of nurses strike for the first time, new Ipsos polling shows support for the strikes has fallen in the past month. When the strikes were first announced in November, three in five Britons supported the action (59%), now half support it (50%). The proportion of those in opposition to the strikes has risen from 24% last month to 34% now.  

Opinions are similar when it comes to ambulance workers, including paramedics, call handlers and emergency care assistants. Just under half of those living in England and Wales (47%) support the strike action while 37% oppose it. 

Most Britons appear to be aware of the reasons for the strikes, with around three-quarters (77%) believing they are striking for an increase in pay, while around a third (32%) say it is for better standards of care for patients. Other common reasons for the strikes mentioned are to increase staff numbers in the NHS (41%) or to increase the amount of money spent on the NHS (33%).

When considering how acceptable it is for healthcare workers to strike for different reasons, the majority of Britons find both an increase of pay (61%) and better standard of care for patients (68%) acceptable reasons. 

Looking specifically at the request of the Royal College of Nursing for a 5% pay rise on top of inflation – a total pay rise of 17%, around half of Britons (49%) think this pay rise is too high. Meanwhile, 37% say it is about right and only 7% deem it too low. 

The public are concerned about the ability of the NHS to provide safe care for patients during the strike actions - 80% are concerned about this for the nurse strikes, and 82% for the strikes by ambulance workers. 

Kate Duxbury, Research Director at Ipsos, said:

There are signs that support for the nurses’ strikes has fallen since November, perhaps as the strikes have become a reality and concerns about the ability of the NHS to provide safe care for patients during the strikes set in. On balance though, the public are supportive rather than in opposition to both the nurses’ and ambulance workers’ strikes – it remains to be seen how this will change as the strikes progress, given the public’s often positive views of, and concern for, NHS staff.

Technical note:

  • Ipsos interviewed a representative quota sample of 1,100 adults aged 18-75 in Great Britain. Interviews took place on the online Omnibus 13th-14th December 2022. Data has been weighted to the known offline population proportions. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.
The author(s)
  • Kate Duxbury Public Affairs
  • Laura King Public Affairs

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