With the British government turning down an offer to negotiate, nurses say they have no option but to strike on December 15 and 20 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In this file photo, a strike in London on October 13, 2014 was held by medical workers including nurses, midwives, porters and ambulance staff.
In this file photo, a strike in London on October 13, 2014 was held by medical workers including nurses, midwives, porters and ambulance staff. (Matt Dunham / AP)

Next month, nurses across most of Britain will hold the first strikes in their union's 106-year history, along with a group of other UK workers taking industrial action related to pay.

Staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland –– but not Scotland –– will walk out on December 15 and 20, after the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union said the government had turned down an offer of negotiations.

It will be the latest industrial action in Britain, where decades-high inflation and a cost-of-living crisis have prompted staff in various sectors to demand pay rises to keep up with spiralling prices.

RCN England director Patricia Marquis on Friday apologised to patients who would have operations or treatments cancelled, and said it was about "nurses standing up for themselves but also critically for patients".

"We are sorry for any disruption that's caused but actually, unless we do this, we don’t see any prospects of things changing any time soon," she told Sky News.

The nurses' strike will be sandwiched between the first of a series of two-day walkouts by national railway workers, while postal service employees will stage fresh stoppages in the run-up to Christmas.

Numerous other public and private sector staff, from lawyers to airport ground personnel, have also held strikes this year.

READ MORE: Workers strike over pay disrupts train travel in UK

Demand for pay rise

Bosses in the NHS said in September that nurses were skipping meals to feed and clothe their children and struggling to afford rising transport costs.

One in four hospitals had set up foodbanks to support staff, according to NHS Providers, which represents hospital groups in England.

"Nursing staff have had enough of being taken for granted, enough of low pay and unsafe staffing levels, enough of not being able to give our patients the care they deserve," said RCN head Pat Cullen.

The union, which wants a pay rise significantly above inflation, announced earlier this month that a ballot of its more than 300,000 members had found a majority in favour of strikes.

British Health Secretary Steve Barclay said on Friday he was open to talks with nurses union RCN but highlighted the merits of a pay rise that was set out by the government in July.

Barclay emphasised that a previously announced pay rise of at least $1,695.26 (1,400 pounds) will mean a newly qualified nurse will typically earn over 31,000 pounds a year.

"The NHS (National Health Service) has tried and tested plans in place to minimise disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate but inevitably strike action will have an impact on services," he said on Twitter. 

In the last year, 25,000 nursing staff left the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register, it said.

READ MORE: Thousands of workers halt UK railways as summer of strikes continue

Source: TRTWorld and agencies