The National Health Service it faces months of disruption early next year when health unions intensify their campaign of strikes in protest against the government’s “dismal” pay and refusal to allow it to improve.
Ambulance services in England will be hit by two days of strike action on January 11 and 23 by members of Unisonand the union has decided that these stoppages will last longer and involve more staff than this week’s strike, as part of a deliberate escalation of their industrial action.
His campaign raise “is a direct result of the government’s repeated refusal to negotiate improvements to NHS pay this year,” the union said.
On Friday morning, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will announce details of the expansion it has threatened to undertake in its campaign to force ministers to improve the £1,400 pay offer for 2022-23 that they have made to NHS staff except doctors and dentists.
It is widely expected that the RCN will announce two more days of strikes after the ones it carried out on December 15 and 20, and that the strikes will affect more hospitals.
Health union officials privately say they are resigned to their months-long dispute with the government, given the hardening of positions by Rishi Sunak and Steve Barclay this week. The prime minister said it was too late in the fiscal year to review the £1,400 award that sparked so much anger, while Barclay, the health secretary, who refused to negotiate on the payment, angered ambulance workers by saying that her unemployment this week could cost her lives.
Responding on Thursday night to news of further labor action, Barclay said: “We are disappointed that some union members have chosen to take further strike action. Additional wage demands from unions would mean taking money away from frontline services and cause further delays in treatment.
“Strikes benefit no one, least of all patients, and I urge unions to reconsider further strikes before strikes have a deeper impact on patients.”
A union official said that, faced with a “stalemate” between staff representatives and ministers, “we are stepping up action. The government seems prepared to hold out and offer no improvement above £1,400. It seems that this will mean that the health unions will have to go on more and more strikes. That will start in January. It could go on for a while.
“Next time, it will be harder for the NHS [to operate on strike days]. We have to make it more difficult because if we don’t cause difficulty, what good is it?
Strikes in the new year are likely to involve even more groups of staff than have already taken part in the three days of action so far involving nurses and ambulance workers. Physiotherapists in England and Wales and Midwives in Wales will announce the dates on which they will perform.
In addition, the British Medical Association is due to start voting 45,000 young doctors in England on January 9, which is expected to yield a resounding vote in favor of the action.