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Nurses’ strike: what’s at stake and how will it affect patients?

Ministers have offered about 1 million NHS staff in England – everyone bar doctors and dentists – a pay rise of at least £1,400 for 2022-23. That represents a rise of between 4% and 5% for staff covered by the longstanding Agenda for Change negotiating framework.

Health unions have rejected the £1,400. They want a rise that would at least match inflation – which is currently 10.1% – while the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is seeking inflation plus 5%. Without inflation-proof rises, staff will suffer a real-terms cut in their take-home pay, unions say.

“Our members will no longer tolerate a financial knife-edge at home and a raw deal at work”, said the RCN general secretary, Pat Cullen. Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, added: “Inflation has already wiped out this year’s 72p-an-hour increase. The government must put pay right to spare the NHS, its staff and all those relying on its care from a dispute no one wants to see.”

The RCN has balloted its members across the UK. The results, published on Wednesday, show that a majority of nurses in most but not all hospitals and other NHS services across the four home nations have rejected the government’s offer and decided to strike in pursuit of better pay.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, has condemned as “unacceptable” the fact that strikes will disrupt services and affect patients’ care. While he has not criticised nurses or any health union, he has blamed ministers for not negotiating with the RCN to try to avert strike action.

“I’m concerned, I think lots of people are concerned about the impact of disruption”, he told LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr on Monday. “That’s still a disruption to patients, which I think is unacceptable.”

If he were the health secretary he would see patients as his “first and foremost” responsibility, he said. “That’s why I think the government have to get a grip on this and get the unions around the table because there is a deal there to be done.”

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Source: The Guardian, 9 November 2022


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