Strike action for nurses will continue into February in England and Wales, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said, in addition to the walk-outs planned in many trusts in England later this week.
A lack of government action following the strikes in December has led to the need for continued action, the RCN’s general secretary Pat Cullen has said.
‘It is with a heavy heart that nursing staff are striking this week and again in three weeks. Rather than negotiate, Rishi Sunak has chosen strike action again.
‘We are doing this in a desperate bid to get him and ministers to rescue the NHS. The only credible solution is to address the tens of thousands of unfilled jobs – patient care is suffering like never before.
‘My olive branch to government – asking them to meet me halfway and begin negotiations – is still there. They should grab it,’ she commented.
RCN members are set to strike this week on Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 January.
Additional strike action in England and Wales has been announced for Monday 6 and Tuesday 7 February.
The strikes in February are set to be more impactful than the last, the RCN has said, with 73 NHS trusts to strike, compared with 44 in December and a planned 55 taking part this week.
At present, only nurses in England are to strike this week. Discussions for Welsh members are taking place, while there is some optimism for a pay agreement in Scotland.
February’s action would see the most trusts ever striking across England in the dispute.
Action in Scotland will remain paused during the negotiation period.
The RCN had initially asked for nurses to receive a pay increase of 5% above inflation this year, which at the highest rate of inflation would equate to a 19% rise.
A statement from the RCN said today: ‘The value of salaries for experienced nurses today are 20 per cent lower in real terms due to successive below-inflation pay awards since 2010.’
Low pay is a major factor ‘pushing’ nursing staff out of the professional and contributing to ‘record vacancies’, the organisation said.
Last week, health unions said that they would not provide joint evidence to the NHS pay review body.