Nurses in the UK are campaigning for a pay rise of five percent above inflation
Nurses in the UK are campaigning for a pay rise of five percent above inflation AFP News

Nurses across the UK have voted to strike in their first national action over a pay dispute, a media report said on Sunday.

The strike ballot among more than 300,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) was the biggest in the union's 106-year history.

"Our strike action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses -- we have their support in doing this," secretary Pat Cullen said.

Although counting is still underway, the domestic PA news agency reported that RCN officials believed enough members had voted for winter industrial action, which is set to take place within a few weeks, possibly before Christmas.

The RCN is campaigning for a pay rise of five percent above the soaring inflation.

The exact nature of the strike is yet to be determined, but is likely to disrupt operations and appointments even as patients are already facing record waiting lists.

"This will see the majority of services taken out, and picket lines across the country," a union source told the Observer newspaper.

It also comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt already face the huge challenge of tackling a 50 billion pound ($57 billion) hole in public finances.

The UK, which is struggling with a cost of living crisis, has seen a wave of industrial action in recent months.

Tens of thousands of staff in various industries -- from the postal and legal systems to ports and telecommunications -- have gone one strike across Britain since the summer.

The RCN said there were record nursing vacancies as 25,000 nursing staff around the UK left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register in the last year.

Recent analysis showed an experienced nurse's salary has fallen by 20 percent in real terms since 2010, and the RCN said the goodwill and expertise of nursing staff was being "exploited" by governments across the UK.