Jeremy Hunt has been urged to release new money to end the wave of strikes disrupting NHS services or risk the dispute dragging on for months.
The public sector union Unison made the demand to the chancellor as the health service in England prepared to contend with the latest in a series of stoppages by ambulance staff on Monday.
“The solution to the growing NHS crisis is staring the government in the face. It’s simple. All the chancellor needs to do is find the money to pay health workers fairly,” said Christina McAnea, Unison’s general secretary.
Whitehall, NHS and health unions sources say Hunt is refusing to give the health secretary, Steve Barclay, any extra money to increase the £1,400 pay uplift he has imposed on staff for 2022/23 and told Barclay to fund any higher offer from the existing health budget.
“It’s strange that it’s the chancellor blocking progress. Jeremy Hunt knows the NHS better than anyone in the cabinet.
“As health secretary he negotiated the wage deal to end the 2015 strike and pushed for fair pay when health select committee chair. But as chancellor he’s chosen to forget all that.
“He must come out of hiding and unlock the funding to end the strikes.”
Up to 15,000 paramedics, call handlers and other ambulance workers who are members of Unison will stage a stoppage from 7am in the ambulance services covering London, Yorkshire and the north-west, north-east and south-west of England.
Ambulance bosses have warned that strikes are adding to the harm and deaths that patients are already suffering because of long waits for paramedics to arrive after a 999 call.
Martin Flaherty, chief executive of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE), urged ministers and unions to “get round the table again and work together urgently to resolve the industrial action which has proved to be adding significant further, unnecessary pressures to an urgent and emergency care system that is facing unparalleled challenges.”
AACE represents England’s 10 NHS regional ambulance services.
“It is now vital that negotiations are successfully concluded between the government and unions to prevent ongoing industrial action, which ultimately leads to a reduction in the quality of NHS patient care and more unnecessary harm to patients,” Flaherty added.
Unison members at the main acute NHS trust in Liverpool as well as the city’s specialist heart and chest hospital will also strike on Monday over pay.
Barclay said: “It is hugely disappointing some ambulance workers are continuing to take industrial action. While we have contingency plans in place to mitigate risks to patient safety, there will inevitably be further disruption.”
Source: The Guardian