NHS strike London: Biggest round of nurse and ambulance action gets under way

NHS strike London: Biggest round of nurse and ambulance action gets under way

Tens of thousands of patients will have their care disrupted as nurses and ambulance staff walk out on Monday in what is the start of the biggest round of strikes in NHS history.

Royal College of Nursing members in a third of England’s NHS trusts are joined by the GMB and Unite unions, which represent ambulance workers.

The industrial action has prompted NHS Providers – which represents trusts – to urge the public to use emergency services “wisely” as it warned the whole service was approaching a “crunch point”.

Seven NHS trusts in London are affected on Monday including Great Ormond Street Hopsital for Children.

It’s the start of a series of walkouts by NHS staff in England this week, with further industrial action set for Tuesday, Thursday and Friday involving RCN members and Physios.

NHS Providers chief executive Sir Julian Hartley said the “double whammy” of strikes could see “the worst disruption yet” for the NHS as he urged ministers to sit down with unions to thrash out a settlement.

But Health Secretary Steve Barclay has repeated his call for the unions to call off their action as he insisted the Government could not give in to above-inflation pay claims.

However, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said he was “not telling the truth” as neither he nor Rishi Sunak had been are prepared to discuss pay.

Which London NHS trusts are affected?

07:19 , Miriam Burrell

There are seven trusts in the capital that are affected by NHS strikes on Monday and Tuesday:

  • Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

  • Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust

  • Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust

  • St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

  • University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

‘No movement’ from PM, nursing union says

07:27 , Miriam Burrell

There has been “no movement” from the Prime Minister and his Cabinet regarding negotiations on pay, the interim Royal College of Nursing (RCN) London director has said.

“The RCN has been clear from the start that our door is open and Pat Cullen is ready and waiting to negotiate, day or night. The ball is firmly in the Government’s court to engage meaningfully,” Mark Farmer told the Standard.

“Ministers have the power to deliver fair pay for nursing, they are choosing not to.”

Unions urged to call off strikes

07:34 , Miriam Burrell

Conservative minister Maria Caulfield urged the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to call off strikes and engage with the independent pay process.

The minister for women told Times Radio that Health Secretary Steve Barclay had met with health unions “virtually on a weekly basis during January” and that those meetings were “absolutely to talk about pay”.

She said: “In England, what the unions have done is withdrawn from the independent pay review process, which doesn’t help at all because we want to submit our evidence, put our case about what is affordable and what we are willing to offer but also the unions need to do that too as they did last year.

“And we would ask them to get back into that process because we want this resolved for patients more than anyone.”

Pictured: Picket line outside Queen Elizabeth Hospital

08:02 , Miriam Burrell

Workers strike in Birmingham (PA)
Workers strike in Birmingham (PA)

‘Prospect of negotiations seems to have faded'

08:26 , Miriam Burrell

A “glimmer of hope” felt in the pay negotiation process has “faded”, NHS Providers director of policy and strategy, Miriam Deakin, has told the Standard.

On the deadlock in negotiations, she said: “If anything, the prospect of negotiations seems to have faded. One of the things that’s most worrying for trust leaders is that they can’t see a path out of what is becoming an increasingly difficult situation for staff and the public.

“Our key ask is that the Government does sit down around the table with the unions for formal negotiations on pay, and for that to be applied to pay this year.

“All sides to have to compromise but I think the absence of any formal negotiations is very worrying.”

Ms Deakin said 88,000 appointment have already been affected by NHS strkes.

Prime Minister is ‘punishing nurses’, RCN says

09:02 , Miriam Burrell

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary Pat Cullen said it has been “weeks” since she heard from “anyone in government” and she wrote to the prime minister on Saturday, but has not received a response.

She told ITV: “He is punishing nurses now in England. These nurses are now paid the worst across the UK when you look at what’s happened in Scotland and Wales. Is that fair? It most certainly isn’t.”

Meanwhile Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said ministers need to stop the “political football game playing”.

“Get in a room, get the negotiation, get the deal on the table. I can’t put ‘constructive talks’ on the ballot paper. I need an offer to put on a ballot paper, so I can get people to ballot on the offer.”


What to do in an emergency

09:20 , Miriam Burrell

Ambulance services are under pressure on Monday as staff strike, with patients being urged to think twice before calling 999.

Dr Mark Harmon, A&E Doctor and Clinical Entrepreneur at eConsult, gives this advice on alternative options if you need medical attention:

  • Urgent treatment centres: Available in most hospitals, which can provide help when it’s not a life-threatening emergency (broken bones and sprains, cuts, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea, high temperature and mental health)

  • Walk-in centres: Will help you with many, but not all, of the same problems as urgent treatment centres

  • Call the NHS on 111: If you are not sure what service you might need

  • Pharmacies: For aches and pains, coughs and colds, flu, earache, skin rashes and cystitis

Trainee nurse ‘can’t switch off'

09:24 , Miriam Burrell

Trainee nursing associate Victoria Busk is on the RCN picket line at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

She said it feels as though “90% of the time” staffing levels on wards are problematic.

“On those days, you’re constantly running up and down wards, all day. In eight hours, I’ll do about 19,000 steps in one ward.

“It’s just constantly chasing your tails, trying to catch up.

“Always going home thinking ‘Oh, this hasn’t been done, this needed to be done’. You can’t switch off from it.

“You’re texting colleagues, saying ‘Can you make sure you do this’, but then they’ll be short (of staff) too.

“It’s a domino effect, it just goes on and on.”

Picket line outside Queen Elizabeth Hospital (PA)
Picket line outside Queen Elizabeth Hospital (PA)

Who is striking today?

10:04 , Miriam Burrell

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members walked out from 7.30am in seven London NHS trusts, including Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Great Ormond Street.

Ambulance workers from the GMB and Unite unions are also on strike in several regions of England today but these do not involve members of the London Ambulance Service (LAS).Further strike action will be held by the RCN on Tuesday while ambulance staff who are members of Unison - including the LAS - will stage industrial action on Friday.

The RCN have demanded a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation but have indicated they would be prepared to settle for a lower figure, while other health unions have demanded a rise that at least matches inflation.

Pictured: Picket lines

11:04 , Miriam Burrell

Ambulance staff in Birmingham (PA)
Ambulance staff in Birmingham (PA)
Outside the Royal Marsden Hospital (REUTERS)
Outside the Royal Marsden Hospital (REUTERS)
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen (PA)
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen (PA)

‘Every time you go on a shift, it’s dangerous'

11:08 , Miriam Burrell

Angela Unufe was an NHS nurse in Nottinghamshire for two years but moved to become a ward manager at a private mental health clinic due to low wages.

From a picket line outside Queens Medical Centre, she told PA: “We are not supported right now. Every time you go on a shift, it’s dangerous, due to low staffing. It’s a mess at the moment.”

She added: “Since Covid, we have been having staffing problems, and it’s just got worse.

“It’s got to a situation where as managers we have to fill in for nurses who are not on shift, because we can’t get the nurses because there are no nurses there, as no one wants to work for peanuts.”

Labour: Strikes are ‘badge of shame’ for Government

11:44 , Miriam Burrell

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said the widespread NHS strikes today are “a badge of shame” for the Government.

“Nobody wants to see these strikes, nobody wants to be on strike — the last thing nurses want to do is to be on strike,” he told reporters at Airbus, near Bristol.

“What they do want is a Government that can show leadership, get around the negotiating table and settle this dispute.

“Before Christmas, the nurses made clear that if the Government was to get in the room and talk to them about pay, they wouldn’t be on strike.”

Big push to release hospital beds, ambulance staff say

11:50 , Miriam Burrell

Kate Coates works for the patient transport service at West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS).

Speaking from the Unite picket line in Birmingham, she told PA: “At the moment, there’s big push in getting everybody out the hospital who doesn’t need to be there, to release the beds.

“Particularly right now, because you’ve got winter pressures, you’ve got Covid, you’ve got flu, you’ve got loads of other different illnesses coming up, like Strep A.

“But also there’s a problem with getting people out of hospital, getting their care packages in place. If they’ve got no care packages to go out to, they’ve got to stay in hospital until the care package is put in place.”


Downing St: ‘Above inflation pay rises are not acceptable’

12:23 , Miriam Burrell

Downing Street said it wanted to look forward and “not backwards” when it came to negotiating on pay with health unions.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Our long-standing position is that above-inflation pay rises are not acceptable, given the impact it would have on taxpayers and the risk of increasing inflationary pressures.

“But we do want to find a path forward. We think the right way to do that is to talk about this year’s (2023/24) pay offer prior to evidence being submitted to the pay review body.”

Asked whether unions should “give up hope” of negotiating on 2022/23 pay, the No 10 official said: “I think we would say we want to keep talking about ways forward.”

Health Secretary Steve Barclay says Government ‘wants to work constructively’ with unions

12:29 , Sami Quadri

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has said the Government “wants to work constructively” with unions amid the biggest walkout in NHS history.

Speaking during a visit to Kingston Hospital in south-west London, Mr Barclay defended the Government’s position that awarding a pay rise could make inflation worse.

He said: “Just a few days ago, the Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said that wages are a factor in the bank’s approach in terms of inflation and interest rates.

“But it’s right that we have an independent process.

“We accepted in full the recommendations made last year, we’re now submitting evidence to the pay review body for April and onwards.

“We want to work constructively with the trade unions in terms of this evidence, and that’s why we’ve been discussing these issues with them.”

Nurse says she is ‘doing the jobs of three people’

12:35 , Sami Quadri

Victoria Busk, a trainee nursing associate on a trauma ward at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, said: “We’re run off our feet 24/7, breaking our backs doing the jobs of three people.”

She told the PA news agency it feels as though “90 per cent of the time” staffing levels on wards are problematic.

“On those days, you’re constantly running up and down wards, all day,” she said.

“In eight hours, I’ll do about 19,000 steps in one ward. It’s just constantly chasing your tails, trying to catch up.”

She added: “We’re already on our knees. It’s only going to get worse because more and more people will leave the profession.”

“We’ve not had anything, no support really from the Government to justify us going back to work.

“We’ve still got no staffing, we’ve still got poor pay and no prospect for nurses and for people to come in and do medicine as a career, which we need.

“We need people to want to come into it.

“The only way that we’re going to get that is by raising wages and make sure it is something that people want to do.”

Pictured: Nurses on pick line outside Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton

12:53 , Sami Quadri


Live coverage ends

13:59 , Miriam Burrell

That’s all for our live coverage today.