The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned strike action by NHS nurses could continue ‘right up until Christmas’ unless the government offers a new and improved pay offer.
The comments made by RCN general secretary Pat Cullen to the BBC came in response to a letter from health and social care secretary Steve Barclay sent to the RCN yesterday, urging the union to ‘reconsider’ strike action planned for April 30 until May 2.
Mr Barclay said he would ‘welcome a meeting’ with Ms Cullen about the RCN’s ‘escalatory’ strike action – which is set to have no derogations in place, meaning nurses in intensive care, emergency departments and in cancer care would be able to strike this time around.
But the health secretary said it should be recognised that the latest offer for NHS staff still ‘stands’ and that he would ‘hope to see it implemented in the interests of all Agenda for Change staff’ after all unions have concluded their consultations.
On Friday April 14, it was revealed RCN members in England had rejected a one-off payment for 2022/23 worth between £1,655 and £3,789 and a 5% consolidated (permanent) pay increase for 2023/24. However, the union Unison saw its members ‘decisively’ accept the offer, while other unions continue to consult their members.
In his letter, Mr Barclay confirmed that the lump sum on offer for 2022/23 would be ‘payable’ if the NHS Staff Council – made up of several health unions representing NHS staff – ‘ratifies this offer’.
Speaking to the BBC over the weekend, Ms Cullen said nurses would ‘absolutely not’ be pausing planned strike action.
She added that the college would ‘move immediately’ to ballot its members on further strike action, and that this could mean strikes lasting ‘until Christmas’.
Ms Cullen called on the government to ‘add to the money’ that was on the table and to ‘respect’ both nursing and the health service, and ‘get a resolution to this’.