Hospitals brace for large-scale disruption as nurses prepare to start 28-hour walkout

·3-min read

NHS services across England are bracing for more disruption, as nurses get ready to stage a 28-hour walkout over pay.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will begin their latest strike action at 8pm today, and will end it at 11.59pm on Monday evening, after voting to reject the government's latest pay offer.

The union had earlier refused to agree to derogations (a level of essential care during industrial action), but later said it would grant some exemptions.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has called the latest walkout "disappointing" and accused the RCN of risking patient safety.

He said: "It is hugely disappointing some unions are escalating strike action this week - including the RCN, despite only a third of its members rejecting the government's fair and reasonable offer on pay, which other unions accepted.

"The RCN's decision not to provide any national exemptions from strike action including for emergency and cancer care, also risks patient safety, though I welcome the fact a number of local mitigations have been agreed for critical services.

"These strikes will put more pressure on the NHS and will be incredibly disruptive for patients.

"People should attend appointments unless told otherwise by the NHS, continue to call 999 in a life-threatening emergency and use NHS 111 online services for non-urgent health needs."

General secretary of the RCN Pat Cullen said: "After a three-month pause, strike action by nursing staff regrettably recommences tonight.

"The government wants to bring NHS strike action to a close this coming week, but with several big unions - and nursing as the largest part of the NHS workforce - still in dispute, it has to do better.

"Only negotiations can resolve this, and I urge ministers to reopen formal discussions with the college over pay specifically. Nursing staff are looking for a fair settlement that shows the government values and understands their profession.

"We appear a long way from that currently, but I remind ministers it is entirely in their gift."

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GMB votes to accept NHS pay offer after Unite rejection
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Original strike plan deemed unlawful

Nurses are set to strike this weekend after a High Court judge ruled on Thursday it would be unlawful for the industrial action to continue into Tuesday as originally planned.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay secured the court's interim declaration after bringing legal action against part of the trade union's proposed walkout.

It was deemed unlawful due to the initial mandate to strike, which lasts six months, expiring, meaning any action after 2 May could not go ahead.

NHS England warned that staffing levels for some areas of the country will be "exceptionally low, lower than on previous strike days".

It is urging the public to use the health service wisely as hospitals prepare to cope with the bank holiday weekend, and said emergency and urgent care would remain the priority.

Unions encouraged to accept pay offer

The latest action comes as health unions are split over whether to accept a 5% pay offer from the government.

The NHS Staff Council - made up of health unions, employers and government representatives - is meeting on Tuesday to discuss the offer.

However, the offer from the government has been described as "final".

Unison and the GMB have both accepted pay offers from the government, with the RCN and Unite having refused.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen will be on Sophy Ridge On Sunday from 8.30am.