Britain’s largest nursing union has warned hospitals will face further, more serious strikes in the new year if ministers do not improve their pay offer to staff.
Thousands of nurses took industrial action on Thursday as part of action organised by the Royal College of Nursing, with a second demonstration planned for Tuesday.
HSJ reports that more than 2,000 elective appointments were cancelled and more than 13,000 outpatients appointments delayed on the day.
The proposed 2023 strikes could be more restrictive, causing greater disruption to hospital services. The RCN warned that nurses will work in fewer areas and perform a more limited number of tasks
Union leaders say they have been trying to formally negogiate with the country’s Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, since announcing strike action in November. But ministers were reportedly unwilling to engage with unions.
Last Thursday, the union’s general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: “I have tried to negotiate and get governments to act. They’ve had every chance but they chose to turn their back on us. As hard as this is, we won’t turn our backs on our patients. That’s why we’ll be on picket lines today, and I will be with you.”
The Observer reports officials at the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department of Trade have been meeting to discuss ways to end the industrial action. Ministers have been given until Thursday to respond to the RCN’s latest threat of strikes.
Per the ObserverCullen said: “The government should get this wrapped up by Christmas. January’s strikes, if they are forced to go ahead, will see more hospitals and more nurses taking part than at present — 2023 needs to be a fresh start for all, not more of the same.”
HSJ estimates just under 10,000 nurses engaged in strikes at 39 English hospital trusts on Thursday, with trusts in the South West and the Midlands seeing the largest number.
England has around 219 National Health Service trusts, ten of which run ambulance services.
Nine of these ambulance trusts are also set to face strike action on December 21 (Wednesday) and December 28th. Organiser GMB union estimates 10,000 paramedics, emergency care assistants, call handlers and other staff will take part in the strikes.
The government has it will use members of the armed forces to support affected ambulance services on strike days.
The country’s overstretched public health services continue to battle seizures in both emergency and elective care, with staffing shortages — as well as a lack of capacity in care homes and home care services — seen as a key driver of the problems.
Rising inflation has seen staff across numerous industries strike in the U.K. in recent months, which travel chaos expected to worsen over the holiday period.
Air travel is likely to be affected by industrial action over the holidays, with staff at several European airlines — and the U.K.’s Border Force — set to strike in the coming days.
Rail disruption, which has affected travel within the country for months, looks set to continue through the holiday period, with several unions expected to strike ahead of Christmas and into the New Year.
Some staff at Eurostar, which connects London to train stations in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, are also due to strike on December 22 (Thursday) and December 23 (Friday).