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Nurses and ambulance crews strike today

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Today is the biggest day ever of strike action in the NHS as the pay row continues.

Tens of thousands of nurses are taking to the picket lines across 73 NHS trusts in England, while ambulance workers are striking in the West Midlands, the North East, the East Midlands and the North West.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the strikes today and tomorrow will be at the “highest intensity” in its history. In comparison, RCN members from 44 trusts walked out in December and 55 in January.

The RCN said that while it had had discussions with the UK Government, prime minister Rishi Sunak was still refusing to open formal pay negotiations which would stop the strikes.

On Friday (3 February), the Welsh government made an offer to NHS staff of an additional 3% pay rise for the current financial year (2022-23). The RCN consequently cancelled its planned strike action in Wales for this week. In Scotland, negotiations continue over additional funding for the current year and there are no planned strikes.

The biggest day of industrial action in NHS history

This weekend, RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen appealed to Sunak directly.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, she wrote: “Please address this current impasse. I have made clear that opening negotiations and making meaningful offers can avert strike action.”

“Your Government looks increasingly isolated in refusing to reopen discussions about the 2022-23 NHS pay award. As a result, the strike action for England remains – with tens of thousands of nurses losing wages to ensure you hear their voice. It must not be in vain.

“It will be the biggest day of industrial action in the 75-year history of the NHS. Nursing staff find that a sobering realisation of how far they have been pushed to protect patient care and secure some respect for the nursing profession.

“I’m urging you to reset your government in the eyes of the public and demonstrate it is on the side of the hardworking, decent taxpayer. There could be no simpler way to demonstrate this commitment than bringing the nurse strike to a swift close.”

Last month, business secretary Grant Shapps introduced the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill to parliament which, if passed, would make it a legal requirement for key services such as nurses and ambulances to have a set amount of cover when they strike.

If made law, the bill would allow bosses to sue unions and sack employees if the minimum levels are not met.