The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary, Pat Cullen, has reassured the public that national exemptions are in place to ensure critical care is provided to patients during the 28-hour strike by nurses over pay. Cullen stated that staff would never leave patients unsafe or create more risk, and the national exemptions cover a broad range of services, including emergency departments, intensive care units, neonatal units, and paediatric intensive care units. The government has previously warned that strike action without exemptions “clearly does put patients at risk”.
Strike to Go Ahead Despite Concerns
Despite concerns about patient safety, the nurses’ union, RCN, has voted to reject the latest government offer and proceed with the strike. The strike will begin on Sunday at 8 pm and end at 11.59 pm on Monday night. The union initially refused to agree to derogations, which guarantee staffing levels in areas of care during industrial action, raising concerns about patient safety. The Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and other organisations declared a “business continuity incident” until they were confident they could staff their services during the strike. However, the RCN offered assurances after the hospital raised concerns.
Reasons for the Strike
The nurses’ strike is due to the tens of thousands of vacant nursing posts, which puts patients’ lives at risk every single day, according to Cullen. Nurses make up a quarter of NHS staff and are the biggest proportion of the health service workforce. Unions including Unison and the GMB have voted in favour of a government pay offer to end the strikes, while Unite and the RCN have voted against.
Government Response to the Strike
The cabinet minister, Mark Harper, warned of the danger of the strike without exemptions for emergency care, stating that it clearly puts patients at risk. He urged the unions not to proceed with the strike and to accept the fair and reasonable pay offer. NHS England also warned that staffing levels for some areas of the country will be exceptionally low, lower than on previous strike days. The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, refused to say whether he supported nurses going on strike without exemptions, stating that he did not want to see strikes go ahead and the way to avoid strikes is to resolve these issues through negotiations.
In summary, the nurses’ union, RCN, is due to go on strike over pay, despite concerns about patient safety. National exemptions are in place to ensure critical care is provided to patients during the strike, covering a broad range of services. The strike is due to the tens of thousands of vacant nursing posts, which puts patients’ lives at risk every single day. The government has urged the unions not to proceed with the strike and to accept the fair and reasonable pay offer.
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