Health Secretary says strike by nurses ‘disappointing’ and warns of care delays

The Health Secretary said it was “disappointing” nurses had voted to strike, as he warned the action would lead to patients facing delays to care.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced on Wednesday that nurses had voted to strike in the majority of NHS employers in a row over pay.

Steve Barclay, who has been Health Secretary for a matter of weeks, tweeted: “It is disappointing some RCN members voted for industrial action.

“We accepted the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body in full and have given over one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year on top of a 3% rise last year.”

In a series of tweets, he said that trade union demands were not “reasonable or affordable”, as he warned that the action would mean delays to care.

“Regrettably, this action will mean some patients will have their treatment delayed,” he said.

“My priority is to keep patients safe during any strikes, minimise disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate.”

In the lead up to ballot results, the Government said it had contingency plans for dealing with any industrial action by nurses.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting accused the Government of “unacceptable negligence” after nurses voted to strike.

The Labour MP said: “There were no strikes in the NHS during 13 years when Labour was last in government. If we were in office today, we would be talking with the RCN and doing everything we can to prevent these strikes going ahead.

“Government ministers spent the summer dodging calls and requests for meetings from the Royal College of Nursing. It is unacceptable negligence.

“The Conservatives have stopped governing and it is nurses and patients who will be made to pay the price.”