Nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will strike on Tuesday in an ongoing dispute with the government about pay and concerns about patient safety.
Up to 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will take part after it balloted its members in October. It has said that low pay is the cause of chronic understaffing that is putting patients at risk and leaves NHS staff overworked.
It will be the second day of strikes in December, after an initial day of industrial action on 15 December, the RCN’s biggest in its history. It meant the cancellation of thousands of outpatient appointments and non-urgent operations.
The RCN’s general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, said: “For many of us, this is our first time striking and our emotions are really mixed. The NHS is in crisis, the nursing profession can’t take any more, our loved ones are already suffering.
“It is not unreasonable to demand better. This is not something that can wait. We are committed to our patients and always will be.”
The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, said ministers in Cardiff had decided against offering nurses more than the 4% and 5.5% they had already been offered.
Steve Barclay, the heath secretary, is understood to have written to unions to request new talks in England, but will not discuss increasing pay. A one-off payment to staff had been mooted, but rejected by Downing Street.
“The health secretary is determined to do what it takes to keep patients and the wider public safe in the face of industrial disputes,” one Department of Health and Social Care source told the Observer.
The two strike dates in December have had some services protected from walkouts, including chemotherapy, dialysis, intensive care and high dependency units and neonatal and paediatric intensive care.
Ruth May, England’s chief nursing officer – a senior figure at NHS England – visited picket lines last week. She said she wanted the government to work with unions to get a deal over pay.
It comes in a month that has been peppered with strike action across the UK, including by NHS staff including ambulance workers, as well as train staff and Royal Mail employees.
Ambulance workers will stage another strike on Wednesday, involving up to 10,000 staff. Union officials have suggested that paramedics, call-handlers and emergency care assistants would come off picket lines for the most serious cases.
Those who are members of GMB will then strike again on 28 December.
Ambulance service staff in Scotland also called off a planned strike after Unite and Unison members agreed to a new offer, with a new minimum hourly rate.
Source: The Guardian