NURSES gathered outside Torbay Hospital on Tuesday, as part of the second day of strike action across England, Wales and Northern Island.
They joined about 10,000 others striking across the country.
The 12-hour strike is the third in three years, causing extensive disruption to services at a time of the year which is already very challenging for the NHS.
Emergency care continued, but many other services were affected by the action.
Spirits remained high outside the hospital, with members of the public showing their support personally, or by honking their car horns as they drove past.
The nurses, members of the Royal College of Nursing, are seeking a 19% pay rise (5% over inflation), arguing that below-inflation wage increases are compromising care by making it hard to attract and retain nurses.
Nicky Richardson, a nurse at Torbay Hospital, said: ‘This is about providing fair pay for what nurses do, every single day a nurse goes to work, they have somebody’s life in their hands, but we don’t think that they get paid enough for their responsibilities.
‘We’re short-staffed all the time, we can’t keep our nurses, but we can’t get new nurses. It’s scary what’s happening in the NHS and the time has come to do something. I qualified in 2006, and even in those years, things have changed so much.
‘This goes back long before Covid.
‘We have people in ambulances for 12 hours, sometimes more, because we don’t have the staff, we don’t have the beds.
‘The NHS is in crisis and unless we recruit and keep nurses, it’s going to end up going down the pan.’
The RCN also argues that the low pay nurses receive is leaving nursing staff feeling overworked, underpaid and undervalued.
The Government has offered a pay rise of roughly £1,400 this year – worth about four per cent, on average.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said the pay offer to nurses is appropriate and fair, despite pressure from health leaders and some former Conservative ministers to rethink. RishiSunak has insisted that he will ‘not back down’ to any strikes and has urged those taking action to consider if industrial action is ‘really necessary.’
Nicky Richardson said: ‘Nobody wants to strike, for us this is mammoth, striking is a really big deal for us, and the paramedics as well. When you look around you can see that many older nurses have also come today, they never thought that this day would come.
‘This is years and years of underinvestment, years of the government burying their head in the sand and thinking that we’d just take it, but we’re not going to take it anymore. The NHS is already crumbling, but if we ignore this, it’ll crumble even further.
‘The support has been amazing though, it makes us feel good that there are people behind us and this is all about being valued.
‘While no resolution has been agreed upon at the time of publishing, RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen has warned of further industrial action in the New Year should the deadlock continue.’ said Nicky Richardson.