WELSH politicians have been queuing up to express their support for nurses after members of The Royal College of Nursing voted for strike action across six health boards in Wales - apart from Aneurin Bevan.

It is the first time the RCN have done so in their 106-year history – with staff in west Wales among those taking action.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds described nurses as ‘the backbone’ of the healthcare system.

“It is not acceptable they have been offered a below-inflation pay rise,” she added.

“This is the first statutory ballot in the RCN’s history - no one wants to see strikes in healthcare take place, but the economic situation, largely caused by the incompetence of the UK Conservative Government, has left our hard-working staff with little option.

“We rightly clapped for our nurses during COVID, but clapping isn’t enough.

“When we have nurses using food banks the system clearly isn't working and we must do better.

“Both Labour in Cardiff Bay and the Conservatives in Westminster need to get their heads together and ensure healthcare staff can be paid at a fair rate.

“I will continue to call on Labour to negotiate with the RCN.”

Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said the decision to strike was ‘highly regrettable’, but added that nursing pay and conditions were the responsibility of Cardiff Bay.

“This will only compound the problems facing the UK’s worst-run NHS as, under Labour, Wales has the longest treatment waiting lists, A&E waiting times, and ambulance response times in the country,” he said.

“I would stress that we cannot make the NHS permanently dependent on agency nurses but, in Labour-run Wales, it is already the case, with nurse vacancies going up by a thousand in just the last year, with £134m spent on agency workers.

And Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for health and care, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said his party was aligned with ‘all workers fighting for fair pay and safe working conditions’.

He added: “We can’t expect the kind of ongoing commitment that nurses give to their work and to patients, without ensuring they’re properly and fairly rewarded.

“No-one wants industrial action if there was any other option, but the fact the ballot took place in the first place indicates the strength of feeling.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson maintain the strikes would not endanger lives.

“We will work with NHS organisations and health boards on their contingency plans,” he added.