Nurses threaten to strike for six more months over pay

Nurses' strikes: Jenny McGee explains importance of action

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Rishi Sunak is facing a protracted crisis in the NHS after the leader of the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) warned that strikes by its members could last well into next year. Speaking on Times Radio this morning Patricia Marquis, RCN England Director, said RCN members could be on the picket line for another six months.

Nurses in England are currently on strike asking for a 19 percent pay rise which would cost the taxpayer £13.3billion a year.

In Scotland, unions have settled with Nicola Sturgeon’s government for an average pay uplift of seven percent.

The threat from the RCN in England comes amid growing concern over the increasing waiting lists, particularly for cancer patients.

According to health minister Maria Caulfield, a former nurse, around 70,000 appointments, procedures and surgeries were lost in England due to the strike.

But Ms Marquis has made it clear that RCN members will not let up on industrial action.

She said: “The only reason we’re entrenched is because we’ve got no one to talk to about what the issue is. Sadly if there is no resolution, then our members have taken a vote to take strike action and the mandate that lasts for six months.

“I really hope and I pray that that is not what happens. We do not want to see protracted strikes, nor do we want to see further disruption to the NHS and to the services that patients need.”

Asked why there could be six months of strikes, she said:  “That’s how long our mandate lasts. We do not want it to last that long. Not at all. What we want is a really swift resolution as quickly as possible.

“We absolutely have to see an improvement in the NHS and what it can deliver. And we won’t see that if nurses continue to leave in droves in the way they are at the moment.”

Times Radio presenters Luke Jones and Aasmah Mir challenged the union boss where she had spoken to any of the patients who had missed out on appointments thanks to the nurses’ strikes.

Ms Marquis admitted that she had not.

She said: “I haven’t, I’ll be honest, but my colleagues have spoken to organisations that represent patients. So Patients Association, Healthwatch, those sorts of organisations. And as I say, I think to me, it is a really sad number to hear.

“It’s very sad the impact that this is having on people’s lives. But the reality is, the people that I did speak to in large numbers over last weekend, and in weeks past have been those that have had to face the fact that operations are being cancelled, and people are waiting in ambulances too long every single day. And that’s those nurses that are trying to manage in a health service that is in complete crisis.”

The negotiations are being handled by Health secretary Steve Barclay who is also facing strikes from paramedics and ambulance drivers.

The industrial action in the NHS is part of a wider new winter of discontent faced by the Government.

Train drivers and other staff have been holding strikes for several months while postal workers, lawyers and others have been going on strike demanding inflation busting pay rises.

Today staff at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be out on the picket line while nurses are back out on strike tomorrow.

In what appears to be coordinated action to cause maximum disruption, ambulance drivers will then be on strike on Wednesday,  posties and border guards on Friday and railway staff on Saturday (Christmas Eve).

The rail strike appears to be aimed at disrupting people’s attempts to get home for Christmas day.


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Ms Marquis said that tomorrow’s strikes could be called off if ministers agree to meet her and the nurses’ representatives.

She said: “At the moment, the biggest problem we have is not what our ask is, it’s having someone to talk to. And that’s really what we’re urging the government and continue to urge the government to do is be pragmatic, be reasonable, don’t get entrenched.

“And please come and have a conversation with us about pay and debate about safe staffing. All of our members and all of us want to find a resolution. 

“If we can avoid the strikes even tomorrow, we will. But the only way to do that is by having a conversation about what this is about, which is pay and safe staffing.”

The government is preparing to deploy 1,200 military personnel to mitigate the strike action.

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