Nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will strike on Tuesday in an ongoing dispute with the government over pay and patient safety concerns.
Up to 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will take part after its members vote in October. He said low pay is the cause of chronic understaffing which puts patients at risk and leaves NHS staff overstretched.
This will be the second day of strikes in December, after a first day of strikes on December 15, the largest in the history of the MRC. This meant the cancellation of thousands of outpatient appointments and elective operations.
Further strikes have been threatened for January unless talks between union negotiators and the government are held by Thursday, 48 hours after Tuesday’s strike.
RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: “For many of us this is our first time on strike and our emotions are really mixed. The NHS is in crisis, the nursing profession can’t take it anymore, our loved ones are already suffering.
“It is not unreasonable to demand better. It’s not something that can wait. We are committed to our patients and always will be.
Scottish nurses were due to strike but were sacked after a pay offer from Holyrood. The proposal was put out to members in Scotland in November and an outcome is expected this week after polls close on Monday.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said ministers in Cardiff had decided not to offer nurses more than the 4% and 5.5% they had already been offered.
Steve Barclay, the health secretary, has reportedly written to unions asking for further talks in England, but will not discuss the pay rise. A single payment to staff had been mentioned, but rejected by Downing Street.
“The Health Secretary is committed to doing what it takes to keep patients and the general public safe from industrial disputes,” a Department of Health and Social Care source told the Observer.
Union leaders have said future hospital strikes could be more severe, with nurses offering “less generous” support inside.
The two strike dates in December shielded some services from walkouts, including chemotherapy, dialysis, intensive care and high-dependency units, and neonatal and pediatric intensive care.
Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England – a senior NHS England figure – visited the picket lines last week. She said she wanted the government to work with the unions to get a pay deal.
It comes in a month that has been littered with strikes across the UK, including by NHS staff, including paramedics, as well as train staff and Royal Mail workers.
Paramedics will stage another strike on Wednesday, involving up to 10,000 workers. Union officials suggested that paramedics, call handlers and emergency care assistants would leave the picket lines for the most serious cases.
Those who are members of GMB will then strike again on December 28.
Ambulance service staff in Scotland have also called off a planned strike after Unite and Unison members accepted a new offer, with a new minimum hourly rate.