Tens of thousands of nurses, including A&E workers are to stage a 48-hour strike at the start of next month, their union has announced. The strikes are taking place due to a dispute over pay and staffing.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that no services will be exempt from the upcoming strike, meaning the industrial action could include nursing staff working in emergency departments, intensive care units, cancer care and other services for the first time.
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.”
The union has also taken aim at the government, accusing them of refusing to engage in negotiations. The strikes will run for a total of 48 hours starting from 6am on March 1, following strikes held by the RCN in December and January.
Initially, the union asked for a pay increase of up to 19 percent to cover soaring costs and a fall in real term wages over the past decade. They have now confirmed the upcoming strikes will reduce services to an ‘absolute minimum’.
RCN 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.
"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."