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Nurses strike for two days as pay row continues

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said: “People aren’t dying because nurses are striking. Nurses are striking because people are dying.”

NHS nursing staff across England will join picket lines today and tomorrow (18 and 19 January) after the UK government refused to open formal pay negotiations.

The industrial action follows weeks of strikes by public sector workers including ambulance staff, rail workers, Border Force personnel and teachers in Scotland. Experts have warned that the UK could see a general strike in the coming weeks or months.

Train drivers from 15 train companies who are members of the RMT union will walk out on 1 and 3 February, causing further disruption to the UK’s railways. Also on 1 February, about 70,000 university staff will strike after talks with employers broke down on Monday, and about 100,000 civil servants from 124 government departments will also down tools.

Nursing staff at 55 NHS trusts across England are walking out this week as part of the ongoing dispute over nursing pay and patient safety.  

The trusts affected are different from those in the nurses strikes in December, which saw nursing staff at 44 NHS trusts in England take action, alongside members on strike in Northern Ireland and Wales.  

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it hoped the strikes would force the UK government to open formal negotiations on the below-inflation NHS pay award for this financial year. 

But it said ministers have so far “refused to take part in serious talks” and were “choosing strikes instead”.  

RCN to escalate action is progress isn’t made

The RCN said that if progress isn’t made by the end of January, strike action will be escalated on 6 and 7 February to include members at 73 NHS trusts in England and all but one NHS employer in Wales.   

Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary and chief executive, said: “Today’s strike action by nursing staff is a modest escalation before a sharp increase in under three weeks from now. If a week is a long time for Rishi Sunak, three weeks is the time he needs to get this resolved. 

“Today’s record number of unfilled nurse jobs cannot be left to get worse. Pay nursing staff fairly to turn this around and give the public the care they deserve.”

The RCN said it was campaigning for a pay rise to help tackle chronic staff shortages by enabling the NHS to recruit and retain the nursing staff it desperately needs.  

Its dispute extends to Northern Ireland, where decisions on further strike action will be taken in the coming weeks if there is no movement from the UK government. In Scotland, strike action remains paused while negotiations continue.

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