Nurses in Wales call off strike after pay offer boosted to 7.5 per cent for the current year
Nurses in Wales have called off next week’s planned strikes following a pay offer of 7.5 per cent for the current year from the Welsh government.
The biggest NHS strike in history was due to take place on Monday with staff walking out over pay in England and Wales.
Nurses, ambulance workers and physios will still be striking every day next week in England, except Wednesday, after no pay offer was made by the Westminster government.
But health unions, including the GMB, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said on Friday the action will be suspended in Wales after the Labour government made an increased pay offer for the current financial year.
Following the announcement Pat Cullen, RCN General Secretary, said Rishi Sunak has “no place left to hide” when it comes to a pay offer in England.
The Welsh government has offered an additional 3pc pay award for 2022-23, of which 1.5pc will be given as a one-off payment.
The other 1.5pc will be consolidated and given on top of the 4.5pc pay award already imposed for 2022-23. The offer will be backdated to April 2022.
The Welsh Government did not provide further details about how much the additional 3pc would cost.
The RCN previously called for an offer at 5pc above inflation, which put their pay demands at around 19.2pc.
It comes as the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations, said the health service will struggle to clear the backlog and improve services unless the strikes are brought to an end.
The body said the Government must "show initiative" to end the dispute or risk patients suffering even longer waiting times.
Figures suggest the number of NHS cancellations of operations and appointments has now increased to more than 88,000.
The strike may also put patients off accessing healthcare due to strikes, storing up problems for the future, NHS Confederation said.
NHS England urged patients to seek urgent care if they need it during strikes and to continue to attend appointments as planned unless told otherwise.
NHS medical director Sir Stephen Powis said: "Next week is likely to be the most disruptive week of strikes to date and while local services have worked hard to minimise the impact for patients, the scale of the action means increased disruption is inevitable."
Steve Barclay, Health Secretary, said at the time such an increase was “not affordable” and would cost £10 billion a year.
On that basis, a 7.5pc increase for NHS workers in England could cost £3.9 billion.
RCN will escalate its strike action in England next week, with action at 73 NHS trusts compared to 44 in December and 55 in January. Ambulance staff will also walk out.
The RCN softened its rhetoric on pay in recent weeks with Ms Cullen calling on the government to meet it “halfway”.
The additional 3pc offer in Wales will be put to members “within days”, it said.
“If the other governments can negotiate and find more money for this year, the Prime Minister can do the same. Rishi Sunak has no place left to hide,” Ms Cullen said on Friday.
“His unwillingness to help nursing is being exposed as a personal choice, not an economic necessity.”
It comes after Mr Sunak said on Thursday evening he would “love” to give nurses a pay rise.
‘Readiness to take action’
In an interview with TalkTV he said giving nurses a pay increase would “make my life easier”, but stressed the need to bring down inflation.
Julie Richards, RCM Director for Wales, said the offer was thanks to the “determination of our members to make their voices heard and their readiness to take action”.
Nathan Holman, GMB official, said: “We recognise that the Welsh government and Welsh Ambulance have made concessions and, through social partnership, we appreciate the frank and open dialogue with them over the last few months.
“This has only been made possible because the Welsh government has been prepared to talk about pay - a lesson for those in charge on the other side of the Severn Bridge.
“It is not only the disruption on the day that is a cause of worry but the longer-term damage on service delivery, staff morale, reform, and how the public engages with the NHS too.”
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "We urge ministers to take the first step and find a resolution to this deadlock with the unions.
"It is not only the disruption on the day that is a cause of worry but the longer-term damage on service delivery, staff morale, reform, and how the public engages with the NHS too.”