Health union leaders to meet minister amid prospect of NHS industrial action

Health union leaders are to meet a Government minister on Tuesday amid the growing prospect of industrial action in the NHS over pay and staff shortages.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay will hold talks with officials from several unions which are balloting their members for industrial action.

It is understood the meeting is about workforce issues rather than specifically the pay disputes.

Rachel Harrison, national officer of the GMB, said: “The Secretary of State has to make this more than a box-ticking exercise if he wants to avoid an unprecedented winter of NHS strikes.

“GMB members in the health service are at their lowest ebb after years of real terms pay cuts, a global pandemic and a crushing cost-of- living crisis.

“The failure to pay staff properly means that the NHS cannot recruit and retain the staff it needs, putting the safety of patients at risk every day. Without urgent action, the very future of our health service is on the line.

“Mr Barclay desperately needs to listen to NHS workers’ concerns before it’s too late.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Ministers are engaging with unions and have been clear the door is open to discuss how we can work together to make the NHS a better place to work, tackle the Covid backlogs and deliver the care that patients deserve.

“We have 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.

“This is on top of a 3% pay increase last year when public sector pay was frozen and wider government support with the cost of living.”

Nurses have already voted in favour of industrial action, while other NHS workers including ambulance crews, paramedics, midwives and hospital porters and cleaners are currently being balloted.