Nurses’ strike means 70,000 appointments, procedures and surgeries will be LOST in England, health minister warns as biggest ever NHS walkouts begin today
- The biggest strike by nurses in the history of the NHS is currently taking place
- Nurses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland walked out over low pay
- 70,000 appointments, procedures and surgeries will be lost due to the action
Thousands of nurses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland have begun a 12-hour strike, which has cancelled 70,000 appointments and procedures.
The strike over a bitter pay dispute is the biggest ever by nurses, involving around a quarter of hospitals and community teams in England, all trusts in Northern Ireland and all but one health board in Wales.
The health service will be running a bank holiday-style service in many areas, though the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said it will still staff chemotherapy, emergency cancer services, dialysis, critical care units, neonatal and paediatric intensive care.
When it comes to adult A&E and urgent care, nurses will work Christmas Day-style rotas.
Health minister Maria Caulfield said around tens of thousands of appointments, procedures and surgeries will be lost in England due to the strike.
She told Sky News: ‘Cancer surgeries are going to be closed in those 44 trusts in England. We reckon it’s about 70,000 appointments, procedures, surgeries that will be lost.’
RCN chief executive Pat Cullen told BBC 4’s Radio Today: ‘It’s a tragic day, a tragic day for nursing, a tragic day for patients and a tragic day for the NHS.’
Ms Cullen said she was ‘truly sorry’ for the disruption and insisted ‘we are not a reckless workforce’.
When confronted on the topic of cancelled cancer treatments, Ms Cullen said: ‘I am really really sorry, but this government needs to be apologising to people.
‘They need to apologise to the over 7 million people who are sitting on waiting lists.’
Thousands of nurses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland have begun a 12-hour strike, which has cancelled 70,000 appointments and procedures
The strike over a bitter pay dispute is the biggest ever by nurses, involving around a quarter of hospitals and community teams in England, all trusts in Northern Ireland and all but one health board in Wales
The General Secretary of the RCN accused Health Secretary Steve Barclay of ‘belligerence’ after he refused to discuss the issue of pay
Picket lines have been set up at dozens of hospitals. Major trusts taking part include Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust in London, Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.
Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, told the PA news agency NHS trusts were ‘pulling out all the stops’ to lessen the impact on patients.
She added: ‘The cold snap has ramped up demand that was already at or close to record levels, but on strike day NHS trusts will do everything they can to ensure that essential services are properly staffed and patient safety, always the number one priority, is safeguarded.’
While Ms Cullen has accused Health Secretary Steve Barclay of ‘belligerence’ after he refused to discuss the issue of pay.
He has said the Government is sticking to the recommendations of the independent pay review body, which said nurses should get a pay rise of around £1,400.
The RCN has been calling for a pay rise at 5% above inflation, though it has indicated it would accept a lower offer.
In Scotland, RCN members are being consulted on a revised pay offer from the Scottish government.
The RCN has been calling for a pay rise at 5% above inflation, though it has indicated it would accept a lower offer
Health minister Maria Caulfield said around tens of thousands of appointments, procedures and surgeries will be lost in England due to the strike
Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICB
Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust
Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust
NHS Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB
Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust
Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
NHS North Central London ICB
Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Found Trust
Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust
Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Found Trust
The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust
Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust
Devon Partnership NHS Trust
Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
NHS Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire ICB (BSW Together)
NHS Devon ICB (One Devon)
NHS Gloucestershire ICB (One Gloucestershire)
North Bristol NHS Trust
Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust
Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust
Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust
NHS Birmingham and Solihull ICB (BSol ICB)
The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust
Yorkshire & Humber
Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust
The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
Health Education England
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Northern Health and Social Care Trust
Western Health and Social Care Trust
Southern Health and Social Care Trust
South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust
Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council
Business Services Organisation
Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority
Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service
Public Health Agency
Northern Ireland Ambulance Service
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board
Powys Teaching Local Health Board
Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust Headquarters
Hywel Dda University Health Board
Swansea Bay University Health Board
Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board
Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board
Velindre NHS Trust
Public Health Wales
Health Education and Improvement Wales Health Authority
NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership
Digital Health and Care Wales
Ms Cullen said on Thursday morning there is ‘nothing independent’ about the independent pay review body process as she suggested future strikes are likely.
She said nurses were asking for the ‘20% that has been eroded from our nurses’ pay over the last decade to be put back’, adding that ‘hundreds of nurses’ are leaving the profession every day.
She said Mr Barclay had told her she could talk about ‘anything but pay – that’s going to resolve nothing. What it is going to do is to continue with days like this.’
Ms Cullen said the independent pay review body was ‘set up by Government, paid by Government, appointed by Government and the parameters of the review are set by Government, so there’s nothing independent about it, and that’s why they came up with the 3% that they’ve come up with.
‘There’s nothing independent about the independent pay review body – it might be accepted by Government, it’s not accepted by the Royal College of Nursing.’
Earlier, Ms Caulfield said pay is ‘almost a smaller issue’ than other conditions for nurses.
The MP, who said she still does shifts as a nurse as in an RCN member, told Times Radio it was ‘with regret’ that nurses are walking out.
She said: ‘Pay is an issue. When I was working full time, I went through the pay freeze and the pay cap, which were very difficult. That’s when we had the Lib Dem coalition government and they were difficult times.
‘But the bigger issues I see from colleagues are around sometimes long working hours, not finishing on time, not having protected study time like doctors do, or trying to get the right skill mix in your working environment so patient workload is manageable.
‘So pay is an issue but it’s almost a smaller issue compared to some of those others.’
On the picket line outside St Thomas’ Hospital in Westminster, some nurses were wearing white RCN vests with the slogan ‘The Voice of Nursing’, while others clutched placards with messages such as ‘It’s time to pay nursing staff a fair wage’.
One nurse called Sarah said her niece, a newly-qualified nurse, had witnessed new nurses being left in charge of 48 patients on a ward.
Pamela Jones, on the picket line outside Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool, said: ‘I’m striking today because I’ve been nursing for 32 years; within those 32 years the changes have been astronomical.
‘I feel really sorry for the young girls who are now trying to get into the profession, they have to pay for their training.
‘The public need to understand the pressures that everyone’s under. You’ve only got to come into A and E and see the queues, there’s no beds.
‘We want to save our NHS, we don’t want it to go, and I think this is the way forward, it’s the only way we can put our point across.
‘We don’t want to be here.
‘I was really torn about striking because it’s not something I’ve ever, ever thought in my lifetime I’d ever had to do, but yet the Government has pushed us to this.’
She added: ‘I hope the Government listens, because none of us want to be here, we just want a fair pay rise.’
Staff nurse Kelly Hopkins, 46, on the picket line outside Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool said: ‘I’m here today because of safe staffing really.
‘There’s over 60,000 vacancies in nursing and we just can’t attract new talent.
‘I was on the ward with a newly qualified staff nurse who was £65,000 in debt and she was earning £27,000.
‘The wards are understaffed which is affecting patient care. I came into nursing to give good nursing care and we can’t give it because there’s not enough of it.
‘Patients aren’t getting their teeth brushed, they’re lying in their own waste because there aren’t enough of us, we can’t split ourselves in two, especially on the wards.
‘Unless we stand up and say something it’s just going to get worse.’
Liverpool staff nurse Kelly Hopkins, who has been a nurse for 25 years, said she felt ‘sad’ when she went into work.
She added: ‘I have connections with the food bank and there are more and more nurses using the food bank which is just not acceptable.
‘They’re coming into work to care for other people and no one’s caring for them.
‘They’re having to use food banks, they’re coming in cold, they’re going without food to feed their children, it’s just crazy.’
A growing number of other workers are also going on strike in disputes over pay, jobs and conditions, with an ambulance worker strike scheduled for next week.
Midwives and maternity support workers in Wales have voted to strike, though the ballot in England did not meet the legal turnout threshold.
Rail services were crippled on Wednesday because of a walkout by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, with more stoppages planned in the coming weeks.
The Communication Workers Union is embroiled is a bitter row with Royal Mail which has led to a series of strikes, with more planned in the busy run-up to Christmas.
Other workers planning strikes include Border Force officers and staff in government departments.
On Wednesday evening, Mr Barclay said nurses were ‘incredibly dedicated to their job’ and ‘it is deeply regrettable some union members are going ahead with strike action’.
Pressure has been mounting on the Government find a compromise on pay, with former Conservative Party chairman Sir Jake Berry saying it ‘is going to have to improve its offer’.
‘We need to find a way as a Government, and the union does too, to get to that centre point, that point of agreement straight away,’ he told Talk TV.
Elsewhere, former head of the independent pay review body, Jerry Cope, suggested ministers should ask it to reconsider the pay rise recommended before inflation soared as a possible solution to strikes.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the decision ‘took place in February and the world was a rather different place in February’.
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