Nurses at every acute trust in the South West except one will strike next month, under further action announced by the Royal College of Nursing.
The union has announced fresh strike dates for Monday 6 and Tuesday 7 February, which will cover more trusts at the same time than either the RCN’s first wave in December, and the 55 trusts where nurses will strike this Wednesday and Thursday.
In total, 73 English trusts will be affected by the February strikes – a further escalation – unless there is progress in pay talks, which could lead to it being called off.
HSJ analysis shows the South West will again be impacted the most, with industrial action planned at 70 per cent of the region’s trusts. By comparison, strikes will take place at just 20 per cent of trusts in the Midlands and London regions.
Yeovil District Hospital Foundation Trust is the only South West acute that will not be affected, having not passed the initial ballot to strike.
Meanwhile, close to half of all trusts in the North East and Yorkshire (44 per cent) and North West (45 per cent) will be impacted.
Announcing the February strikes, RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: “It is with a heavy heart that nursing staff are striking this week and again in three weeks. Rather than negotiate, Rishi Sunak has chosen strike action again…
“My olive branch to the government, asking them to meet me halfway and begin negotiations, is still there. They should grab it.”
Unions have reiterated their calls for ministers to open negotiations on the 2022-23 Agenda for Change pay deal. The dispute largely revolves around the 2022-23 pay award, which was well below current price inflation levels, but concerns have also been raised over patient safety.
Media reports suggest the government is considering offering deals including one-off payments and pay growth for next year (2023-24), potentially tied to changes in ways of working, but no formal moves have been made.
Commenting on the announcement, NHS Providers chief executive Saffron Cordery said: “We have seen how disruptive these strikes can be, and more extensive industrial action is likely to have an even greater impact. Nobody wants this to continue happening.
“There are three weeks between now and these newly announced dates in February. This is more than enough time for the government and the unions to open negotiations on pay for 2022-23 and avert more strikes.”
More strikes are also likely in the ambulance service, if no deal is reached, while the British Medical Association is balloting junior doctors.