Government given ultimatum over nurse pay strikes – Nursing Times

‘Nurses have made their voice heard loud and clear’
17 November, 2022 By
Source:&nbsp RCN and Justine Desmond
The government has been given five days to open “formal, detailed negotiations” on pay and patient safety or the Royal College of Nursing will announce its first strike dates and locations for December.
The ultimatum from the college follows the chancellor’s autumn financial statement earlier today.
“There is only value in meeting if you wish to discuss the issues that have caused our members to vote for strike action”
Pat Cullen
While Jeremy Hunt confirmed an additional £3.3bn in each of the next two years to support the NHS in England and committed to an “independently-verified” NHS workforce plan, there was no mention of the ongoing dispute over staff pay.
The RCN’s general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, said the statement demonstrated “the government remains unprepared” to give nurses the “support they need” and has now applied pressure on the government to address NHS pay as a matter of urgency.
Thousands of nurse members of the RCN have voted to strike across the majority of NHS employers in the UK, while some nurses from the GMB union and members from the Royal College of Midwives have also secured a mandate for industrial action.
The threat of strike has come in response to the below-inflation pay awards implemented for NHS staff on Agenda for Change in 2022-23.
Ms Cullen has met with health and social care secretary Steve Barclay since the strike news but said, while cordial in tone, the issues at the heart of proposed action had not been resolved.
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In a letter to Mr Barclay today, Ms Cullen said: “It is with regret that I write to say that unless our next meeting is formal pay negotiations, beginning within the next five days, we will be announcing the dates and locations of our December strike action.”
The RCN has been calling for a pay rise of 5% above inflation, which currently translates to around a 17% increase.
But so far, both the health secretary and the prime minister have claimed the RCN’s ask is unaffordable.
While recent meetings with Mr Barclay had been welcome, Ms Cullen added in her letter: “I must not let my members nor the public confuse these meetings for serious discussions on the issues of NHS pay and patient safety.”
She added: “You have again asked to meet in the coming days and for this third occasion I must be clearer in my expectation.
“There is only value in meeting if you wish to discuss – in formal, detailed negotiations – the issues that have caused our members to vote for strike action.
“It is now more than a week since we announced our ballot outcome, and your department has dedicated more time to publicly criticising our members’ expectations than finding common ground and a satisfactory conclusion.”

Christina McAnea
The union Unison is also currently balloting its NHS members on strike action over pay in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and its general secretary Christina McNea flagged that the statement failed to address the pay dispute.
She said: “The government acts like there’s no public sector pay or workforce crisis.
“Nothing was said today to change the minds of NHS staff currently voting on strike action.”
She added: “Health worker wages must be boosted now to prevent a damaging dispute this winter.”
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In his statement earlier today, chancellor Mr Hunt unveiled the government’s financial plans which he claimed would lead to “lower energy bills, higher long-term growth, and a stronger NHS and education system”.
During his speech to parliament, Mr Hunt, who is a former health secretary, said: “The service we depend on more than any other is the NHS.
“As a former health secretary, I know how hard people are working on the frontline and how much they are struggling after the pandemic.”

Jeremy Hunt
Overall, Mr Hunt said the NHS budget in England would be increased by “an extra £3.3bn” in each of 2023-24 and 2024-25 .
Meanwhile, social care is to be given £1bn extra funding in 2023-24 and £1.7bn in 2024-25.
Mr Hunt added that the “biggest issues are workforce shortages and pressures in the social care sector”.
On staff shortages, Mr Hunt announced the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS would publish an “independently-verified” workforce plan – something unions and health organisations have long been calling for.
Such a plan would take “full account of the need for better retention and productivity improvements”, he claimed.
Responding to the statement, NHS England’s chief executive Amanda Pritchard said she welcomed the “chancellor’s decision to prioritise the NHS with funding to address rising cost pressures and help staff deliver the best possible care for patients”.

Amanda Pritchard
“This shows the government has been serious about its commitment to prioritise the NHS,” she said.
She added: “While I am under no illusions that NHS staff face very testing times ahead, particularly over winter, this settlement should provide sufficient funding for the NHS to fulfil its key priorities.
“As ever, we will act with determination to ensure every penny of investment delivers for patients.”
The Department of Health and Social Care has been approached for a response to the RCN’s letter.
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