Ambulance crews and nurses vote for 5 per cent pay deal ending strike

But other staff from RCN union narrowly reject pay offer and will take to picket lines again

People gather on a street in London, ahead of a march in solidarity with nurses, junior doctors and other NHS staff. PA
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Nurses and ambulance crews have voted by a significant margin to accept a government pay offer of a 5 per cent rise.

The deal, which will see the Unison union staff get at least £1,065 plus a one-off lump sum, will come as a significant relief for Rishi Sunak's government after months of negotiations and strikes

In a consultation of 288,000 NHS workers across England, almost three-quarters (74 per cent) voted to accept the offer with 26 per cent rejecting it.

But a Royal College of Nursing poll narrowly rejected the offer with 54 per cent against it and 46 per cent in favour.

It will now strike at the end of this month for 48 hours and for the first time this will include some critical care services, such as intensive care causing severe disruption over a bank holiday weekend.

Leaders of both unions had recommended acceptance of the offer.

The ballots closed as junior doctors in England stage the final day of a four-day strike in an increasingly bitter dispute over their pay.

It comes as the British Medical Association (BMA) junior doctors committee co-chairman Dr Robert Laurenson insisted he was “still working” while on holiday during the NHS walkouts.

Dr Laurenson, 28, made headlines by taking a holiday to attend a wedding amid the junior doctors' strikes over demands for a full pay restoration that the government said would amount to a 35 per cent pay rise.

He defended his absence from the picket lines after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday said he was “surprised to read” Dr Laurenson was on holiday.

“I can see that you feel undermined and I am really sorry my actions have contributed to that,” Dr Laurenson reportedly wrote in an online forum.

He said he was invited to the wedding in autumn 2022.

“I am always responsive on my phone to the needs of my role at the BMA, including being in hospital strike WhatsApp groups across the country to answer queries.

“I am determined and committed to doctors and winning. Me being physically in a different location shouldn't change anything.

“I have an amazing co-chair. We have a negotiation team that doesn't need me and has strict parameters.

“I am still in touch, still attending meetings, and still working.”

On Thursday, Home Office minister Chris Philp suggested junior doctors must suspend all strikes for the government to consider entering talks arranged by conciliation service Acas in a bid to end the pay dispute.

Acas said it was “well prepared and ready to help” and the BMA was urging ministers to get round the table to try to break the deadlock.

Nurses and ambulance workers on strike in Britain — in pictures

The Department of Health and Social Care said it remains open to a role for Acas but repeated that talks cannot take place until junior doctors drop their demand for a 35 per cent pay increase and end the strike.

On Wednesday, Mr Sunak said he wanted to find a “reasonable compromise” with junior doctors.

Prof Philip Banfield, the chairman of the BMA council, said: “In the face of a constant refusal from the Health Secretary to agree to further talks and put forward a credible offer which could bring an end to the dispute, we believe that working with Acas provides the most realistic chance of a successful outcome to the negotiations.

“The BMA has no preconditions to talks and has consistently sought to negotiate with the government.”

Hospital bosses have expressed concern about keeping patients safe as they struggle to secure cover for overnight junior doctor shifts during strikes.

The health service's top doctor, Prof Sir Stephen Powis, warned that the situation in the NHS would “become more challenging each day this strike progresses”.

Meanwhile, fresh strikes are to be held by civil servants after unions attacked an announcement of a pay rise for this year of between 4.5 per cent and 5 per cent.

Prospect said its members will walk out on May 10 and June 7 across government departments and other areas such as the Met Office and Health and Safety Executive.

Updated: April 14, 2023, 4:07 PM