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Nurses pause strike action as ministers agree pay talks

Published on: 21 Feb 2023

The Royal College of Nursing has agreed to pause planned strike action as they enter pay talks with the government.

In a joint statement with the Department of Health and Social Care, the two parties said they will enter a process of “intensive” discussions. There will be a meeting between the union and health and social care secretary Steve Barclay on Wednesday.

It is unclear what the news means for other professions covered by Agenda for Change, including ambulance staff and physiotherapists, who are also taking industrial action; and for doctors.

Several media reports today say the government may offer a pay increase of up to 5 per cent in 2023-24 with some upfront payment to backdate it into 2022-23, with the hope of settling disputes.

The joint government and RCN statement said: “Both sides are committed to finding a fair and reasonable settlement that recognises the vital role that nurses and nursing play in the NHS and the wider economic pressures facing the United Kingdom and the prime minister’s priority to halve inflation.

“The talks will focus on pay, terms and conditions, and productivity enhancing reforms.

“The health secretary will meet with the Royal College of Nursing on Wednesday to begin talks. The Royal College of Nursing will pause strike action during these talks.”

It comes as nurses were set to walk out of emergency departments, intensive care units and cancer care services for 48 consecutive hours for the first time next month.

More than 120 organisations were set to be affected, covering a range of providers, integrated care systems and national organisations.

Unions have repeated calls for ministers to open negotiations on the 2022-23 Agenda for Change pay deal, as the ongoing dispute revolves around it being below inflation. 

The GMB union, which represents many non-nursing Agenda for Change staff in ambulance trusts and elsewhere, criticised the separate talks between RCN and government.