Union chief urges Rishi Sunak to help end nurses' strike

Pat Cullen warns government is becoming 'increasingly isolated'

Nurses are striking in Britain on Monday and Tuesday. PA
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A nurses' leader has pleaded with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to intervene in their pay dispute and help find a solution.

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen said a “meaningful” pay offer from the government could still avert strike action.

Thousands of nurses, ambulance crew and other health workers are due to take action from Monday.

The strikes are part of a wider series of walkouts that includes rail workers, teachers, civil servants and others.

Workers are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis during which inflation has exceeded 10 per cent but pay offers fall short.

In a letter to Mr Sunak, Ms Cullen drew a comparison with his swift action sacking Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi after he was found to have breached the ministerial code in relation to his tax affairs.

“As shown by last weekend’s fast-paced changes in Cabinet, big decisions can be made by you at any point in the week in the interests of good government,” she wrote.

“I am urging you to use this weekend to reset your government in the eyes of the public and demonstrate it is on the side of the hardworking, decent taxpayer.

“There could be no simpler way to demonstrate this commitment than bringing the nurse strike to a swift close.”

On Monday, RCN nurses will walk out alongside GMB and Unite paramedics, call handlers and other staff at ambulance trusts.

Nurses will strike again on Tuesday, physiotherapists on Thursday and ambulance workers again on Friday.

In Wales though, the RCN and other unions have called off similar action after receiving a new pay offer from the Welsh government.

With negotiations also continuing in Scotland, Ms Cullen warned Mr Sunak that his government was becoming “increasingly isolated”.

“As a result, the strike action for England next week remains, with tens of thousands of individuals losing wages to ensure you hear their voice.

“It must not be in vain. It will be the biggest day of industrial action in the 75-year history of the NHS.

“Nursing staff find that a sobering realisation of how far they have been pushed to protect patient care and secure some respect for the nursing profession.”

The NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations, has also said “the intensifying waves of industrial action”, must be brought to an end.

“We urge ministers to take the first step and find a resolution to this deadlock with the unions,” said chief executive Matthew Taylor on Friday.

“It is not only the disruption on the day that is a cause of worry but the longer-term damage on service delivery, staff morale, reform, and how the public engages with the NHS too.”

Updated: February 05, 2023, 9:17 AM