Nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are set to strike again today (Tuesday, December 20) as a dispute with the government over pay and conditions continues. It’s the second day of strikes in December after an initial day of strike action on December 15.
Around 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will take part after the union balloted members in October. December 15 was the biggest day of strike action in the union’s history, after it claimed that low pay is the cause of chronic understaffing that leaves patients at risk and NHS staff overworked.
The strikes have led to the cancellation of thousands of non-urgent operations and outpatient appointments. Some services have been protected from walkouts including intensive care, chemotherapy and dialysis, along with neonatal and paediatric care.
More strikes have been threatened for January 2023 unless talks between the government and RCN go ahead before Thursday (December 22). Nurses have asked for a 19% pay increase, which ministers in England have deemed “unaffordable”.
Nurses in Scotland were set to strike but called off the industrial action following a pay rise from Holyrood. The proposal was put to members in Scotland in November and a result is expected this week after the ballot closed on Monday.
Pat Cullen, general secretary and chief executive of the RCN said: “For many of us, this is our first time striking and our emotions are really mixed. The NHS is in crisis, the nursing profession can’t take any more, our loved ones are already suffering.
“It is not unreasonable to demand better. This is not something that can wait. We are committed to our patients and always will be.”
Health secretary Steven Barclay is thought to have written to unions to request new talks in England, but will not discuss a pay. Meanwhile Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, said ministers in Cardiff had decided against offering nurses more than the 5.5% that had already been offered.
Other sectors that have engaged in strikes this month include other NHS staff including ambulance workers, as well as railway staff and Royal Mail employees.