The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has accused Government ministers of being ‘on strike’ themselves as the largest nursing strike enters its second day.
Today, nurses from 73 NHS trusts in England are on strike. This is the largest number of NHS trusts to take part in industrial action, even after RCN Wales postponed industrial action last week.
On Monday, when nurses were on strike alongside ambulance crews, senior government figures were absent from urgent parliamentary questions on the strikes; instead delegating responsibility to junior minster Will Quince.
After both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, or health secretary Steve Barclay were ‘missing in action’, RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘People may wonder if the government is also on strike.’
Ms Cullen added: ‘The Westminster government is punishing England’s nurses and looking increasingly isolated as the Welsh and Scottish governments come to the table.’
This comes as a survey of over 1,000 NHS workers found that two thirds (63%) or nurses and healthcare workers reported having to choose between food and fuel to combat rising fuel prices.
The study, conducted by healthcare platform provider Florence, also found that 14% of nurses surveyed have begun to use food banks since the cost of living crisis began last year, a further 30% at least know colleagues who have begun to.
While working days lost due to stress and mental illness are at record highs among nurses in the NHS, this study also revealed that 79% of nurses and healthcare professionals said that the rising cost of living has negatively impacted their mental health.
Fiona Millington, chief nurse at Florence, said: ‘It’s an incredibly difficult time to be a nurse or carer at the moment. The government hailed nurses & healthcare workers during the pandemic but where is that support now?
‘The proposed pay increase doesn’t come close to what is needed by healthcare workers across the country. Nurses and carers are making genuine decisions, ‘Do I have something to eat that’s hot? Do I risk having to use gas to heat this up?’.’
Yesterday was the largest strike in NHS history, involving tens of thousands of workers across England from the RCN, GMB, and Unite unions. A total of 88,000 procedures or outpatient appointments have been postponed due to strikes in the last eight weeks, with more being moved from in-person to telephone appointments.
Unions in Wales suspended strike action after the Government offered Agenda for Change staff an additional 3% raise on top of the offer made last year by the independent NHS Pay Review Body.