Tens of thousands of nurses in UK go on strike for first time

Pay dispute sees picket lines set up at hospitals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Tens of thousands of nurses are going on strike for the first time across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Picket lines are being set up at dozens of hospitals in a dispute over pay. Thousands of NHS appointments and operations have been cancelled because of the strike, with the health service running a bank holiday-style service in many areas.

Around a quarter of hospitals and community teams in England are taking part in the strike, alongside all trusts in Northern Ireland and all but one health board in Wales.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said it will still staff chemotherapy, emergency cancer services, dialysis, critical care units, neonatal and paediatric intensive care.


Some areas of mental health and learning disability and autism services are also exempt, while trusts have been told they can request staffing for specific clinical needs.

When it comes to adult A&E and urgent care, nurses will work Christmas Day-style rotas.

Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, told the PA news agency NHS trusts were “pulling out all the stops” to lessen the impact on patients. “But it’s inevitable that some operations or appointments will have to be rescheduled.”

RCN chief executive Pat Cullen has accused Health Secretary Steve Barclay of “belligerence” after he refused to discuss the issue of pay.

He has repeatedly said the Government is sticking to the recommendations of the independent pay review body, which said nurses should get a pay rise of around £1,400 (€1,628).

The RCN has been calling for a pay rise at 5 per cent above inflation, though it has indicated it would accept a lower offer.

When it submitted the 5 per cent figure to the independent pay review body in March, inflation was running at 7.5 per cent.

But inflation has since soared, with RPI (retail price index measure of inflation) standing at 14.2 per cent in September.

Meanwhile, in Scotland RCN members are being consulted on a revised pay offer from the Scottish government. – PA