Nurses’ union call for stronger strike action, announcing first 48-hour walkout

The RCN has said staff have ‘had enough of being taken for granted, enough of low pay and unsafe staffing levels.’

A photo of a march coinciding with RCN strikes. Demonstrators are carrying a banner reading "We are the NHS!"

After health secretary Steve Barclay failed to make contact following their original walkout, and months of inaction from the government, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has confirmed two more strike dates.

Nurses will be walking out from March 1 – 3. The industrial action will be the first time nurses will have conducted a 48-hour strike. They previously walked out for two consecutive days but only for 12 hours at a time.

The March strike will see more than 100 trusts involved across the country.

In previous strike action, the union agreed around 5,000 exemptions at a local level with NHS hospitals, and several national derogations. However, in the upcoming strike, no derogations will be in place and all departments are allowed to walk out, including critical care units, meaning for the first time, intensive care units, A&E and cancer care could see staff take part in the strikes.

Following years of low pay that has ‘pushed nursing staff out of the profession’ and is ‘putting patient care at risk,’ the nurses’ union is demanding a pay rise of at least 17 percent. Rishi Sunak has said the demands are ‘obviously unaffordable.’

Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary and chief executive, said it was with a ‘very heavy heart’ she has asked even more nursing staff to join the dispute.

“These strikes will not just run for longer and involve more people but will leave no area of the NHS unaffected. Patients and nurses alike did not want this to happen.

“By refusing to negotiate with nurses, the prime minister is pushing even more people into the strike. He must listen to NHS leaders and not let this go ahead.

“I will do whatever I can to ensure patient safety is protected. At first, we asked thousands to keep working during the strikes but it’s clear that is only prolonging the dispute. This action must not be in vain – the prime minister owes them an answer,” Cullen continued.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Image credit: Steve Eason – Creative Commons

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