Nurses throughout the UK have voted for the first time ever to take part in national strike action in a dispute with employers over pay and working conditions amid the cost of living crisis.

The strike ballot by more than 300,000 members of the UK's largest nursing union, the Royal College of Nurses (RCN), returned the biggest-ever ballot in the union's 106-year history.

READ MORE: Train strikes suspended after RMT secures National Rail pay offer promise

READ MORE: RMT to strike this weekend bring yet more disruption

The RCN's general secretary Pat Cullen said: “Our strike action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses – we have their support in doing this.”

While counting is still underway, RCN officials believe enough members have voted in favour of winter industrial action which is set to take place within a few weeks and possibly before Christmas.

Patients will likely face disruption to operations and appointments while much of the country already faces record NHS waiting lists.

A union source told the Observer newspaper: “This will see the majority of services taken out, and picket lines across the country.”

This comes amid the cost of living crisis and an announcement by the new Prime Minister and Chancellor, Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt that "tough decisions" will have to be made to plug a £50 billion black hole in public finances.

In a statement, Mrs Cullen said: “Patients are at great risk when there aren’t enough nurses.

“Huge numbers of staff – both experienced and newer recruits – are deciding they cannot see a future in a nursing profession that is not valued nor treated fairly.”

She added: “As we begin action, politicians in every part of the UK will be challenged to back their nursing staff and understand the strength of public support.”

Recently, the RCN said that there was a record number of nursing vacancies with 25,000 people having left nursing and midwifery in the last year.

It said that since 2010, real-term wages have fallen by 20% and that they are campaigning for a pay rise of 5% above inflation.