Nurses strikes to end but now senior doctors vote to walk out

Senior medics threaten to strike over two days in July providing only ‘Christmas day’ levels of cover

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Tuesday 27 June 2023 21:27 BST
Nurses in Wales have begun a fresh wave of strikes amid a bitter dispute over pay
Nurses in Wales have begun a fresh wave of strikes amid a bitter dispute over pay (PA Wire)

Nurses strikes are set to end but the disruption for NHS patients will continue as senior doctors are the latest to vote to walk out.

The Royal College of Nursing failed to reach the threshold needed to hold further action, with just 43 per cent of the required 50 per cent of members returning a ballot to hold fresh walkouts.

But more than 24,000 members of the British Medical Association (BMA) backed industrial action by 86 per cent on a turnout of 71 per cent, well above the legal threshold of 50 per cent, with senior doctors set to strike on 20 and 21 July. It comes after the union last week announced a five-day strike by junior doctors will be held from 13 July.

NHS leaders have said consecutive walkouts from junior doctors and now consultants presents a “huge risk” for the health service.

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, said: “The urgency can’t be overstated. Trust leaders want the government and unions to sit down, facilitated by a third party if necessary, to find a way to end strikes.”

The BMA has said the government must come forward with a “credible” pay offer to address a real terms pay cut which the BMA has claimed has led to consultants’ pay falling by 35 per cent since 2008.

While nurses’ strikes are set to end, the government still faces further action from radiographers who are set to return ballot on Wednesday.

To meet the legal threshold the RCN needed 140,000 members to return a vote but only received 122,000. Of those who voted, the union said that more than 100,000 – 84 per cent – voted in favour of taking action.

In an email to members, RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen, said: “While the vast majority of members who returned their ballot papers voted in favour of strike action, we did not meet the 50 per cent turnout threshold necessary for us to be able to take further strike action.

“While this will be disappointing for many of you, the fight for the fair pay and safe staffing that our profession, our patients, and our NHS deserve, is far from over.”

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS hospitals, said: “With 112,000 vacancies in the NHS and large numbers of nurses continuing to leave the service, the government must do all it in can to address workforce shortages by implementing a fully funded and long overdue workforce plan, so nurses and other health staff can feel supported in delivering essential care to their patients.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “More than 1 million eligible NHS staff are receiving their pay rise and one-off payments this month, with an experienced nurse receiving over £5,100 in extra pay across last year and this year. We are committed to supporting nurses to continue to progress and develop, including as part of the upcoming NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.

“We hope other unions who remain in dispute with the government recognise it is time to stop industrial action and move forward together.”

Responding to the senior doctors’ strike, the spokesperson said the action was “disappointing”. “Consultants received a 4.5 per cent pay uplift last financial year, increasing average earnings to around £128,000, and they will benefit from generous changes to pension taxation announced at budget,” the spokesperson added.

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