Nurses to start second day of strikes as union leader tells Rishi Sunak to ‘listen’ or risk further industrial action | Political news

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will hold their second walkout across England, Wales and Northern Ireland today – as Health Secretary Steve Barclay is set to hold talks of crisis with ambulance unions over coverage of an emergency strike.

Tens of thousands of nurses participated in the first day of strike last Thursday in their first mass walkout in a century.

Industrial action, a bid to secure pay rises above inflation, will continue again today after no breakthrough was found between the government and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Picket lines are expected to be in place in dozens of hospitals and thousands of NHS appointments and operations are expected to be canceled, with the health department running a holiday-style service in many areas.

The MRC said it would continue to staff chemotherapy, cancer emergency departments, dialysis, intensive care units, neonatal and pediatric intensive care.

For adult A&E and emergency care, nurses will work on Christmas Day style rotations.

Share your experience with the NHS – how are strikes affecting you?

The government has accepted recommendations made by the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) to give nurses pay rises below inflation of around 4%.

The MRC has demanded a 19% pay rise – 5% above inflation – although it has indicated it will accept a lower offer.

Ahead of the second day of the nurses’ strike, RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen warned Rishi Sunak of “listen to the people around him” or face continued strikes next year.

‘The Prime Minister should ask himself what is motivating nurses to stand outside their hospitals for a second day so close to Christmas,’ she said.

“They are willing to sacrifice a day’s pay to have their concerns heard. Their determination stems as much from worries about patient safety and the future of the NHS as from personal difficulties.

“Rishi Sunak is under increasing pressure at Westminster after last Thursday’s strike and he should listen to the people around him.

Read more: Health Secretary Steve Barclay challenged by his mother during hospital visit

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The nurses knock reluctantly

“The public are increasingly with their local nurses and this government desperately needs to get on their side. It is unprecedented for my members to be on strike.

“Let’s get this all over by Christmas. I will negotiate with him at all times to prevent nurses and patients from entering the new year in the face of such uncertainty.

“But if this government is not ready to do the right thing, we will have no choice but to continue in January and that will be deeply regrettable.”

Read more: How the strike will affect A&E and other NHS services – and which hospitals are affected

When the NCR submitted the 5% figure to the independent pay review body in March, inflation was 7.5%.

But inflation has since spiked, with the RPI standing at 14.2% in September.

The Health Secretary has reiterated that the MRC’s demands are “unaffordable”.

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PM urges nurses to rethink strikes

“I greatly appreciate the work of our NHS staff and it is disappointing that some union members are continuing their strike action when we know the impact this is having on patients,” he said.

“My number one priority remains to keep patients as safe as possible and I have worked closely with the NHS and across government to protect safe staffing levels.

“The NHS remains open, patients should continue to come in for urgent and urgent medical care. They should also continue to come in for appointments unless they have been contacted by the NHS.

“The MRC’s requests are unaffordable in these difficult times and would rob frontline services of money while they are still recovering from the impact of the pandemic.

“I am open to engaging with unions on how to make the NHS a better place to work.”

Meanwhile, Mr Barclay is due to meet with members of the Unite, Unison and GMB unions this afternoon to seek assurances from union officials that Category 2 incidents – such as strokes or cases of severe chest pain – will be covered during the industrial action.

Sources say the Health Secretary will not discuss the pay rise in the new talks.

The paramedics are due to strike on December 21 and 28.

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Nurses’ pay has ‘fallen off a cliff’

The UK is facing a wave of strikes this winter, with at least one walkout a day before Christmas, as staff in different industries seek better pay.

Read more: Who goes on strike on which day?

From transport to the NHS, from education to delivery drivers, tens of thousands of workers are taking action as the recession grips the UK and the Cost of life mounted.

Mr Sunak will be asked about the continued chaos of the strike when he first appears at the Liaison Committee on the last day of Parliament this afternoon.

He will have to answer questions from the chairmen of parliamentary committees on global issues, the UK’s place in the world and economic issues – including the cost of living.

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