Nursing union announces largest set of strikes yet - across 73 trusts

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on the picket line (File picture)  (PA Wire)
Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on the picket line (File picture) (PA Wire)

Nurses will go on strike in 73 NHS trusts next month, the Royal College of Nursing has announced, in the most significant industrial action taken so far this winter by any health union.

In a statement, the RCN said that nurses will walk out for the third time on February 5 and 6 if no further progress is made with the Government in negotiations over pay.

Talks between the RCN and Health Secretary Steve Barclay broke down last week, with the union dismissing the negotiations as “bitterly disappointing”.

The strikes in February will be the largest yet, with 73 trusts involved in total compared to 44 in December and 55 in January.

Paramedics will also stage a third day of industrial action on January 23 while more than 4,200 NHS physiotherapy staff employed across 30 trusts in England will strike on January 26.

The RCN has been calling for a pay rise at 5 per cent above inflation, though it has said it will accept a lower offer.

The following trusts will strike in London: 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.

RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: “It is with a heavy heart that nursing staff are striking this week and again in three weeks. Rather than negotiate, Rishi Sunak has chosen strike action again.

“We are doing this in a desperate bid to get him and ministers to rescue the NHS. The only credible solution is to address the tens of thousands of unfilled jobs – patient care is suffering like never before.

“My olive branch to government – asking them to meet me halfway and begin negotiations – is still there. They should grab it.”

Nurses will also walk out this Wednesday and Thursday, with six London NHS employers affected.

For the strikes this week, the RCN has agreed to still staff chemotherapy, emergency cancer services, dialysis, critical care units, neonatal and paediatric intensive care.

Some areas of mental health and learning disability and autism services are also exempt, while trusts will be told they can request staffing for specific clinical needs.

When it comes to adult A&E and urgent care, nurses will work Christmas Day-style rotas.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing on the picket line outside the Royal Liverpool University Hospital (PA Wire)
Members of the Royal College of Nursing on the picket line outside the Royal Liverpool University Hospital (PA Wire)

Mr Barclay has reportedly asked unions to help him persuade the Treasury to offer higher pay rise to NHS workers.

He is said to have privately told unions he wanted to secure a better pay offer from No 10, according to The Observer.

But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt have refused to budge on their stance that the Government cannot afford to make an improved offer, the newspaper reported.

Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, said the announcement of further strikes in February was “very worrying”.

“The health service is already stretched far too thin as trust leaders try to cope with ongoing industrial action alongside other mounting pressures bearing down on the NHS.

“We’ve seen how disruptive these strikes can be, and more extensive industrial action is likely to have an even greater impact. Nobody wants this to continue happening.

“We understand how frustrated nurses feel, and how they have got into this point: below-inflation pay awards, the cost-of-living crisis, severe staff shortages and increasing workloads have created near-impossible conditions.

“There are three weeks between now and these newly announced dates in February. This is more than enough time for the government and the unions to open negotiations on pay for 2022-23 and avert more strikes.”