Members of the RCN will walkout for 48 hours
Nurses will stage fresh strikes over the first May bank holiday, with staff in emergency departments, intensive care units and cancer care set to take industrial action for the first time.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced on Friday that its members will walk out for 48 hours from 8pm on April 30 after rejecting the Government’s pay offer.
The union has urged ministers to offer an “historic pay award” to break the deadlock.
It comes as around 47,000 junior doctors finished their 96-hour strike in a separate dispute over pay at 7am on Saturday.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has urged the Government to engage in talks over junior doctors’ demands for “pay restoration” to 2008 levels. Ministers have claimed that would amount to a 35% pay rise.
Asked whether the RCN would consider coordinating industrial action with junior doctors, the union’s director for England Patricia Marquis told BBC’s Newsnight: “That is something that will have to be considered if not least because we are all in the same space…
“We all work in the same places and therefore there may be an issue where our strikes do at some point either coordinate or overlap in some way as they have done in previous times when we haven’t necessarily coordinated but actually they have knocked alongside other unions in the ambulance service.
“We are having conversations with the BMA, not specifically around coordinating but more to understand what their asks are, what our asks are and also to understand how we can both work in a coordinated way, not necessarily on strike action but really to get the Government to understand how just how difficult the situation is for staff in the NHS and the impact it’s having on patients every single day.”
The RCN escalation followed a 54% vote to reject an offer of a 5% pay rise this year and a cash payment for last year.
The turnout among RCN members employed on NHS Agenda for Change contracts in England was 61%.
The move followed an earlier announcement by Unison that its NHS members had accepted the same offer by 74% on a turnout of 53%.
Unison’s head of health, Sarah Gorton, said the vote did not solve the “staffing emergency” in the NHS.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen has written to Health Secretary Steve Barclay to seek urgent re-opening of talks with the Government.
She said: “What has been offered to date is simply not enough. The Government needs to increase what has already been offered and we will be highly critical of any move to reduce it.
“After a historic vote to strike, our members expect a historic pay award.”
Mr Barclay said it was “hugely disappointing” that the RCN had rejected the pay deal.
He said: “Their decision to escalate strike action with no exemptions, based on a vote from a minority of members, is also hugely concerning.
“The NHS staff council, which recommended this offer, covers a number of trade unions who are continuing to vote, and I hope this offer secures the support of a majority of members.”
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said strikes would have an impact on efforts to bring down NHS waiting times.
He said: “It is very challenging in the NHS anyway, but if you add the pressure of strikes on to what is already a very pressured service, it makes it very difficult to bring down waiting times and we’re dealing with a record high in waiting times after the pandemic.”
The RCN will re-ballot its members in England to see if they want to continue taking industrial action because the current mandate runs out in early May.
Unite and the GMB will announce the result of their ballots on the same deal in two weeks’ time.