Nurses to strike for the first time across Britain on 15 and 20 December

Nurses across Britain will go on strike for the first time in two days in the fortnight before Christmas after ministers rejected their pleas for formal talks. NHS to pay.

Royal College of nursing (RCN) said its members would observe a national strike on 15 and 20 December – the first time in its 106-year history. Senior sources said the industrial action was expected to last for 12 hours on both the days – most likely between 8 am and 8 pm.

The unprecedented national industrial action will seriously disrupt care and is likely to be the first in a series of strikes by junior doctors and other NHS staff, including ambulance staff, over the winter and spring.

The RCN said it had confirmed the dates after the UK government rejected an offer of formal, detailed talks as an alternative to industrial action.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said, “It’s been more than two weeks since we confirmed to ministers that our members felt such injustice that they would strike for the first time.” “My offer for formal talks was rejected and instead, the ministers have chosen strike action.

“They have the power and the means to stop this by starting serious talks that address our dispute.

“Nursing staff have enough being taken for granted, low pay and unsafe staffing levels, enough to not be able to give our patients the care they deserve.”

The attacks will take place in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The RCN will announce which particular NHS employers will be affected next week, when formal notifications are presented.

In Scotland, the RCN has stopped announcing strike action. The Scottish Government has reopened NHS pay talks.

On Friday, Pat Cullen said the UK government has chosen to call on the strikes to listen to nursing staff, adding: “If you turn your back on the nurses, you turn your back on the patients.”

She said she did not recognize the figures presented by the health secretary, which suggested the 19.2% pay rise being demanded from the RCN is costing £10bn a year.

“If [health secretary Steve] Barkley wants to meet me, spins the table and stops the spin and starts speaking, he can deflect these attacks,” he said. “But my door is open day and night. I make myself available. Will get it done, as will my team on behalf of our nursing staff.

“That option is not available to me at this time and as a result she has chosen to strike to speak to me.”

Earlier this month, the RCN announced that most NHS employers across the UK had nursing staff voted to take strike action More than pay and patient protection.

The RCN said that despite a pay rise of around £1,400 a summer, experienced nurses’ real positions have fallen by 20% since 2010 due to persistently low-inflation awards.

The RCN said the economic rationale for paying nursing staff fairly was clear when billions of pounds were being spent on agency staff to fill workforce gaps.

It said that last year, 25,000 nursing staff from around the UK left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register, with poor pay contributing to a nationwide staff shortage affecting patient safety. There are 47,000 vacancies for NHS Registered Nurses in England alone.

Other health unions are also polling workers for industrial action. They have been warning for months that a large number of workers are leaving the job over wages and salaries weak self confidenceLeading to staff shortages in hospitals and other parts of the NHS.

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said: “Why on earth is the Health Secretary refusing to hold talks with the nurses? Patients are already not getting timely treatment, strike action is the last thing, yet the government is allowing this to happen. Patients will never forgive the conservatives for this negligence.

The health secretary, Steve Barclay, stressed he was “hugely grateful” for the hard work of the nurses and deeply regretted the industrial action. However, he refused to start formal talks and described the RCN’s demands as “not affordable”.

“Our priority is keeping patients safe,” he said. “The NHS has tried and tested plans to minimize disruption and ensure emergency services can continue.”

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