Nurses to stage 48-hour walkout which will include A&E workers as dispute over pay and staff escalates

16 February 2023, 17:10 | Updated: 16 February 2023, 18:40

Tens of thousands of nurses including staff working in A&E will stage a 48-hour walkout at the start of March, as the dispute between over pay and staffing escalates.
Tens of thousands of nurses including staff working in A&E will stage a 48-hour walkout at the start of March, as the dispute between over pay and staffing escalates. Picture: Getty

By Chris Samuel

Tens of thousands of nurses including staff working in A&E will stage a 48-hour walkout at the start of March, as the dispute between over pay and staffing escalates.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that no services will be exempt, which means that for the first time the strike will involve nursing staff working in emergency departments, intensive care units, cancer care and other services that previously haven't taken part.

The RCN has accused the Government of refusing to engage in talks, as it seeks significant pay rises to keep up with soaring inflation and living costs.

The industrial action will start on March 1 and run continuously for 48 hours from 6am.

The union held a series of two-day strikes in December, January and earlier this month which ran for 12 hours each time only during the day shift.

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But this time, it said service would be reduced to an "absolute minimum" and it will ask hospitals to instead rely on members of other unions and other clinical professions instead.

Its general secretary Pat Cullen said: "It is with a heavy heart that I have today asked even more nursing staff to join this dispute.

"These strikes will not just run for longer and involve more people but will leave no area of the NHS unaffected. Patients and nurses alike did not want this to happen.

Nurses hold up placards expressing their opinion during the demonstration outside St Thomas' Hospital, February 7, 2023.
Nurses hold up placards expressing their opinion during the demonstration outside St Thomas' Hospital, February 7, 2023. Picture: Getty

"By refusing to negotiate with nurses, the prime minister is pushing even more people into the strike. He must listen to NHS leaders and not let this go ahead.

"I will do whatever I can to ensure patient safety is protected.

"At first, we asked thousands to keep working during the strikes but it is clear that is only prolonging the dispute.

"This action must not be in vain - the prime minister owes them an answer."

The union initially demanded a pay rise of up to 19 percent, but last month Ms Cullen said it could accept a pay increase of around 10 percent to end the dispute.

But the government has so far refused to re-open pay talks, saying it was right to stick to the independent pay review body's recommendation of around 4 percent.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the announcement by the union marked a 'major escalation' that will 'risk patient safety'.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the announcement by the union marked a 'major escalation' that will 'risk patient safety'. Picture: Getty

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: "Failure to provide cover during strike action for key services like cancer care is a significant escalation from the Royal College of Nursing that will risk patient safety.

"We are working closely with NHS England on contingency plans, but this action will inevitably cause further disruption for patients.

Nurses hold signs at an official picket line outside the Royal Berkshire Hospital on 6 February 2023 in Reading, United Kingdom.
Nurses hold signs at an official picket line outside the Royal Berkshire Hospital on 6 February 2023 in Reading, United Kingdom. Picture: Getty

"I've had a series of discussions with unions, including the RCN, about what is fair and affordable for the coming year, as well as wider concerns around conditions and workload."

The RCN also announced that the initial strike benefit rate - which members can claim from the union if their pay is deducted due to strike action - will be upped from £50 to £80 per day, with the rate from the fourth day of action increasing to £120.

Shortly after the announcement, the RMT announced further train strikes starting from March 16 in an on-going row over pay, jobs and conditions.

Members of the union will walk off the jobn on March 16, 18 and 20, and April 1, at 14 train operators.

The union’s members at Network Rail stage industrial action on March 16 and will then launch a ban on overtime.

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