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Nursing union gives Government ultimatum over strikes

Nursing union gives Government ultimatum over strikes
By Jess Hacker
20 December 2022

Up to 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have today staged their second walkout this week, amid an ongoing dispute with the Government over real-terms pay cuts and concerns for patient safety.

Nurses first took to the picket line last Thursday (15 December), but the Government and health secretary Steve Barclay did not open pay negotiations.

The RCN has now warned the Government that if it does not respond within 48 hours of today’s strike ending, it will announce further strike dates in January 2023.

Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary and chief executive, has also issued a warning to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stating that he is falling under ‘growing pressure’ to open negotiations.

She said: ‘The Prime Minister should ask himself what is motivating nursing staff to stand outside their hospitals for a second day so close to Christmas.

‘They’re prepared to sacrifice a day’s pay to have their concerns heard. Their determination stems as much from worries over patient safety and the future of the NHS than personal hardship.’

She added that ‘if this Government isn’t prepared to do the right thing, we’ll have no choice but to continue in January and that will be deeply regrettable’.

It comes less than a day after the deadline closed for ICSs to confirm their plans for ambulance strikes –taking place tomorrow (21 December) – with NHS England.

The NHS set out three ‘essential’ actions to mitigate worst case scenarios and keep services running, including outlining how emergency departments will ensure the release of all ambulances within 15 minutes of arrival.

NHS England’s elective recovery chief Sir Jim Mackey said last week that the ambulance strike is ‘a completely different order of magnitude of risk’ when compared to the nursing strike and that the cause for worry seems to be due to the ‘complexity and fragility of urgent care’.

ICSs have also been instructed to ‘scale up’ system actions set out in its October winter resilience plan, including ensuring System Control Centres (SCCs) have enough clinical input to make ‘genuine real-time decisions’ which spread risk.

They must also establish their 8am to 8pm falls response services and Acute Respiratory Infection hubs, if these are not already in place.

Industrial action this month will take place at more than 40 trusts and six ICBs including:

  • Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICB
  • Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB
  • North Central London ICB
  • Devon ICB
  • Birmingham and Solihull ICB
  • And Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire (BSW) ICB.

And nearly half of ICBs reached the legal threshold to warrant strike action.

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