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Employment

Here’s when and where nurses are going on strike

NHS nurses are set to stage a second national walkout this month after the government failed to reach a deal with the Royal College of Nursing

Having failed to reach a deal over pay with the government, nurses will follow December’s strike with further action in January and February, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has announced.

More NHS trusts are taking part in the upcoming two-day strikes than in December as the dispute escalates and health services reach crisis point. 

“The government had the opportunity to end this dispute before Christmas but instead they have chosen to push nursing staff out into the cold again in January”, Pat Cullen who leads the RCN, told Sky News. 

Here’s what we know so far about the strike.

When are nurses going on strike?

Nurses who are members of the RCN union are set to strike on:

Wednesday January 18 in England

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Thursday January 19 in England

Monday February 6 in England and Wales

Tuesday February 7 in England and Wales

Ambulance workers have also announced strike dates in January, with members of Unison walking out on January 23.

Where are nurses going on strike?

NHS trusts voted individually on the action, with 55 trusts in England voting to strike in January, nine more than in the December strike action.

February will see the most widespread protest among nurses so far, with nurses in Wales also joining the strike action. Both the UK and Welsh governments have refused to “seriously negotiate on the current year’s NHS pay deal”, says the RCN. 

In Scotland, the RCN has paused a formal announcement of strike action while talks take place with the Scottish government.

Nurses in Northern Ireland are not part of the strikes in January or February at this stage, a RCN spokesperson told The Big Issue. 

Click here to see the full list of NHS trusts that have voted to strike

Why are nurses going on strike?

Britain’s nurses are facing a workforce crisis. The number of nurses and midwives quitting their jobs has risen for the first time in four years – suggesting conditions are even worse than during the pandemic. On average, 500 nurses are leaving every week. 

In the last year, 25,000 nursing staff around the UK left the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register. There are 47,000 unfilled registered nurse posts in England’s NHS alone.

Severely understaffed wards are not only causing extreme stress and burnout, says the RCN, but are impacting the safety of patients and the quality of the treatment they can receive. 

The RCN is seeking a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation to make up for what it calls a decade of real-terms pay cuts. With inflation currently at 11.1 per cent, this would be a 16.1 per cent pay rise. 

Only with higher pay will the sector be able to retain and attract new nurses, the union says, with two-thirds of nurses working in general practice thinking about leaving the profession within a year because of low pay.

Despite this year’s pay award, the RCN said experienced nurses are worse off by 20 per cent in real terms due to successive below-inflation pay awards dating back to 2010. In Scotland that figure is estimated to be 16 per cent.

Independent research commissioned by the RCN has shown the exchequer would recoup 81 per cent of the initial outlay of a significant pay rise in terms of higher tax receipts and savings on future recruitment and retention costs.

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What impact will a nurses strike have on health services?

When nurses strike there will be disruption to planned appointments and procedures, the RCN has said. This would likely lengthen backlogs and waiting lists. There would, however, be measures in place to ensure patient safety is not at risk.

Studies have shown that short-staffing, whether caused by strike action or workforce crisis, has a “profound effect on nurses’ ability to do their jobs, increases rates of medical error and leads to preventable patient deaths”.

There is a legal requirement on trade unions to make sure that strike action does not endanger human life or cause serious injury – it is a criminal offence to strike if there is a risk of this happening. 

Emergency treatment by nurses will always be maintained, the RCN has emphasised. A team will review minimal staffing levels at every health trust facing strike action to make sure there are always enough nurses working to maintain patient safety. 

If a major emergency were to happen requiring more nursing staff, nurses would be taken off picket lines and return to work, the RCN said. 

There are different ways of managing a nursing strike. Trusts may choose to implement a “Sunday service” or Christmas Day service or make certain essential services – such as intensive care – exempt from strike action. 

What have politicians said about the strikes?

So far, Rishi Sunak’s government has refused to budge on pay, standing by the pay award it imposed last September of 5.5 per cent for new nurses, and 3.7 per cent for most others. 

In December health minister Steve Barclay told NHS workers that they could “look forward” to next year’s pay deal, but has so far refused to increase the government’s 2022 pay award.  

But in a possible change of heart, Barclay has reportedly said he wants more money for all NHS staff except doctors, the Observer has revealed. This has caused a rift in the cabinet with prime minister and his chancellor Jeremy Hunt who continue to argue that there is no more money available. 

The most recent round of NHS pay negotiations failed again after the government reportedly told the unions they would need to justify a pay rise with increased productivity, according to a Unite negotiator.

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These are the NHS trusts where nurses will strike in January:

England

East Midlands

NHS Derby and Derbyshire ICB (Joined Up Care Derbyshire)

Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust

East

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Mid and South Essex ICB

NHS Norfolk and Waveney ICB

NHS Suffolk and North East Essex ICB

London

Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust

St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust

University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

NHS South West London ICB

North-west

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust

Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust

Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust

Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust

Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Cheshire and Merseyside ICB

St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB

Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

North

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

North of England CSU (NECS)

South-east

Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust

University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust

Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Kent and Medway ICB

NHS Surrey Heartlands ICB

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

Solent NHS Trust

South-west

Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust

Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust

Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust

Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust

NHS Dorset ICB (Our Dorset)

West Midlands

Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust

Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trust

NHS Black Country ICB

Midlands and Lancashire CSU

Yorkshire and Humber

Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust

Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

NHS West Yorkshire ICB

National employers

NHS Resolution

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT)

In February, the following NHS Trusts in Wales will join the nurse strike:

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board

Powys Teaching Local Health Board

Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust Headquarters

Hywel Dda University Health Board

Swansea Bay University Health Board

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board

Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board

Velindre NHS Trust

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