A man with a parrot was among those in attendance at a rally to show support for striking nurses at Homerton Hospital.

More than 40 people, including Antony Robbins and parrot Bella from Hoxton, braved the cold weather to attend the event yesterday (December 15), which was organised by the Hackney branch of UNISON.

Fewer than 50% of Homerton Hospital’s Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members voted in the strike ballot, falling short of the legal threshold required to trigger industrial action.


Up to 100,000 nurses across 63 NHS trusts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were on strike yesterday over an ongoing dispute about pay and patient safety.

It is the first time the RCN has staged nationwide strike action in its 106-year history.

Jenny Leow, an occupational therapist at Homerton who helped organise the rally, told the Hackney Gazette that while union members were “very disappointed” not to reach the turnout threshold, “the feeling in the hospital is very strong for strike action”.

She said: “We stand in solidarity with every single person on strike. No one takes strike action lightly, especially not in the NHS.

"The NHS was run on goodwill for a very long time and obviously we love what we do, we love working with patients. But we are at breaking point, and the strike is a symbol of that.”

Hackney Gazette: Wendy Pettifer, from London Fields, is receiving treatment for cancer and supports the striking nurses Wendy Pettifer, from London Fields, is receiving treatment for cancer and supports the striking nurses (Image: Cerys Edwards)

The RCN is demanding a pay rise of 5% above inflation, equivalent to a 19% real terms increase.

The RCN has previously said that despite this year’s pay award, experienced nurses are worse off by 20% in real terms due to successive below inflation awards since 2010.

Steve Barclay, the health secretary, has offered a below-inflation rise of 4%.

Despite freezing temperatures, the rally was attended by health care workers, local residents, campaign group representatives, and several of Hackney’s councillors.

Addressing the crowd, Ms Leow said: “Our rage at the state of the NHS will keep going a lot longer than our fingers,” before introducing speakers including Alia Butt, an NHS psychotherapist, and Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney.

Wendy Pettifer, from London Fields, has stage four cancer and has been receiving treatment at St Barts Hospital, which was not on strike, for three and a half years.

She said: “I absolutely, fully support the strike even if it were to mean my treatment was cancelled. It's more important that the service keeps going for the general public than for me as an individual.”


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Chemotherapy, kidney dialysis and critical care units were protected from the strike action, while staff numbers in other areas were reduced to Christmas Day or night duty levels.

Coral Jones, a GP in Hackney, said: “It's really important that we come out to show solidarity with nurses […] they're working for poverty wages and under extremely difficult conditions.”

She said the strike was about patient safety as well as wages.

She added: “They [the nurses] have to strike to get the NHS back to the way it’s meant to treat people. Staff want to do a good job.”

In London only five hospital trusts (Great Ormond Street, Guys and St Thomas, Imperial College, North Central London and Royal Marsden) voted in favour of strike action, which is also occurring on December 20.

Hackney Gazette: • Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, addresses the rally • Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, addresses the rally (Image: Cerys Edwards)

A spokesperson for Homerton Healthcare said: “As a Trust we have been working alongside our Trade Union representatives to listen to our staff and support them in any way we can. 

"Much work has been going on for the past two years in addressing staff concerns, improving their welfare and providing them with professional support through Our Homerton People strategy.

“At Homerton Healthcare, a significant number of people did vote for strike action, however there is a requirement in law that at least 50% of eligible staff vote in the ballot and this requirement was not met. As such we will not have strike action for RCN Nursing Union members at our Trust.

“We recognise the strength of feeling amongst our staff here and across the country. We also recognise that some people may feel disappointed that they are not able to take part in action taking place in some other parts of the NHS.

"We have told our staff that we have heard their voice, we understand the issues that are being raised and we will continue to work closely and constructively with all of our unions and union members over the coming months.”