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Striking nurses say they might cancel walkout if government takes talks 'seriously'
11 December 2022, 17:02
Nurses set to walkout in an historic NHS strike before Christmas sent the clearest signal yet that they may be willing to call off industrial action.
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Royal College of Nursing union boss Pat Cullen said she would suspend strike plans if health secretary Steve Barclay took nurses' pay wishes "seriously".
Members have asked for a pay rise in line with inflation plus five percent, although Ms Cullen appeared to suggest that the exact figure is up for negotiation.
She told the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: "I won't dig in if he doesn't."
Ms Cullen said: "The health secretary can choose negotiation over picket lines.
"As soon as the health secretary gets into a room with me [...] I'll certainly not be found wanting in my negotiation."
Asked if that meant the RCN would be willing to "give ground" on existing terms, Cullen said: "I'm not saying I wouldn't."
Mass walkouts involving 100,000 nurses from 76 trusts across in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are planned on December 15 and December 20.
Around 15,000 operations will have to be cancelled if the industrial action goes ahead, NHS Trust chiefs have warned.
The government has so far refused to negotiate with nurses directly on the grounds that the NHS is technically their employer, meaning they must talk to health bosses.
Meanwhile NHS England's medical director Stephen Powis said pay is determined by the independent review body and the government.
To cope with staff shortages beginning next week, the PM has announced emergency plans for the army to step in.
As Christmas approaches, ambulance staff will also begin industrial action and border force are planning eight days of action that will also disrupt flights over the holiday season.
The public are being warned that on Thursday when the nurses strike an ambulance will only be sent out if there is an immediate risk to life.
That includes life-threatening injuries such as sepsis, heart attacks and serious allergic reactions, but does not include strokes.
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