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Revealed: Nurses at half of South West trusts to strike in December

Published on: 29 Nov 2022

Nurses at half of the trusts in the South West are going on strike in mid-December, compared with just one in 10 in the South East. 

The Royal College of Nursing has today said members will take action at half of the locations in England where the legal mandate was reached for strike action earlier this month.

However, the union warned the number of NHS employers affected will increase in January “unless negotiations are held” with the government over pay.

A few hours after the RCN’s announcement, Unison declared their members working for ambulance trusts had voted for industrial action and are “likely to strike before Christmas.”

There is much regional variation in the locations chosen by the RCN strike action. HSJ analysis reveals nurses will strike at 10 out of 20 trusts in the South West (50 per cent) on 15 and 20 December. Nineteen of the region’s trusts had voted in favour of strike action earlier this month – Yeovil being the only trust which did not reach the threshold. 

By contrast, nurses at just three of the South East’s 33 trusts will be striking. Additionally, industrial action will take place at only four of London’s 35 trusts.

HSJ was told earlier this month that the strong showing in the South West was due to factors such as lower staff turnover, prominent senior union activists, high pressure on services and a big regional impact from the cost of living crisis.

NHS England wrote to trust and integrated care system leaders yesterday to urge them to reach agreements with local union representatives to maintain a range of critical services – including cancer treatment, discharges, and mental health response – during the strike action. 

Pat Cullen, RCN’s general secretary and chief executive, said: “Ministers have declined my offer of formal pay negotiations and instead chosen strike action. It has left us with no choice but to announce where our members will be going on strike in December.”

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay urged the RCN to “come back to the table,” but the RCN has told the government it must be prepared to negotiate.

Saffron Cordery, NHS Providers’ interim chief executive, said trust leaders want the government and nursing officials to “talk urgently to find a solution that will avert strikes”.

She added: “Everybody wants to avoid prolonged industrial action. We understand how strongly nurses feel and why it has come to this but the NHS is facing what may be its hardest ever winter, amid severe staff shortages and ever-increasing demand for services.

“Trusts affected will do everything they can to minimise disruption for patients. Their priorities remain ensuring the safe delivery of care and supporting the wellbeing of staff.”

The nursing union has called for a pay rise of five percentage points above inflation, measured by the retail price index. This would be approximately 19.2 per cent on current estimates.

Ambulance strikes

Unison announced today that “thousands of 999 call handlers, ambulance technicians, paramedics working for ambulance services in the North East, North West, London, Yorkshire and the South West “will be called out on strike over pay and staffing levels.”

General secretary Christina McAnea said: “Patients will always come first, and emergency cover will be available during any strike. But unless NHS pay and staffing get fixed, services and care will continue to decline.”

“The public knows health services won’t improve without huge increases in staffing and wants the government to pay up to save the NHS. It’s high time ministers stopped using the pay review body as cover for their inaction.”

The Unison statement also revealed that the ballot failed to achieve the 50 per cent turnout required to make strike action legal “at many trusts”.

Unite’s ballot closes this week.