16,000 appointments postponed during nurses’ strike, NHS data shows

16,000 appointments postponed during nurses’ strike, NHS data shows

labor strike
labor strike

Nearly 16,000 appointments, procedures and surgeries have been postponed in England – 54,000 fewer than the government proposed – as nurses staged their biggest strike in NHS history.

The figures came after Health Secretary Maria Caulfield said around 70,000 appointments would be lost due to the 12-hour industrial dispute.

According to preliminary NHS data reported by trusts home to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) strike on Thursday, 2,452 inpatient and day sick elections and 13,327 outpatient appointments were postponed, bringing the total to 15,779.

Across England, 9,999 staff were absent from work due to the strike, according to figures on the NHS England website.

The highest numbers were recorded in the South West where striking staff totaled 2,372, 2,023 in the Midlands and the second highest, 1,714 in the North East and Yorkshire.

Rishi Sunak is refusing to bow to pressure from health leaders and some senior conservatives to negotiate pay with nurses to prevent further action.

The Prime Minister on Friday insisted the nurses’ offer was “reasonable and fair” as he warned that without better pay, strikes would escalate.

Four Conservative former ministers have urged Mr Sunak to back down amid suggestions asking the NHS Pay Review Board to reconsider their recommended deal could be a way out.

Caregivers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will go back out on Tuesday without a breakthrough.

The strike affected around a quarter of hospitals and community teams in England, all trusts in Northern Ireland and all but one health authority in Wales.

Despite the postponed appointments, polls showed that the majority of the public supported nurses’ strike action.

Mr Sunak and Health Secretary Steve Barclay stood by the pay agreement recommended by the NHS Pay Review Board in July and refused to negotiate pay.

Speaking to the BBC during a visit to Belfast, the Prime Minister said: “The Health Secretary has always said clearly, the door is always open, it always has been.

“But we want to be fair, reasonable and constructive, so we have accepted recommendations from an independent pay panel on what fair pay would be.”

Questions from the Prime Minister
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday insisted the nurses’ offer was “reasonable and fair” (James Manning/PA).

A health source insisted the payroll verification body would not be consulted again, saying: “If we overturn this deal, we’ll have to find billions more.”

“No, we won’t do that,” they added.

Conservative chair of the Commons Health Committee Steve Brine has argued the move would be an “elegant” and “sensible” way to stave off more strikes.

Former Conservative Party leader Sir Jake Berry has urged the government to negotiate pay, telling Times Radio: “Machismo and a kind of chest beating and ‘we accept the unions’ doesn’t work. You can only clear that up by talking.”

dr Dan Poulter, a former health secretary, argued ministers should increase their supply as “inflation has significantly undermined real wages” since the proposals.

Former Attorney General Robert Buckland told PoliticsHome: “There has to be a middle ground” between the government’s offer and the union’s demands.

A salary increase of £1,400 was recommended for nurses, which is estimated to be an average salary increase of 4.3% for qualified staff.

The RCN has asked for a pay rise of around 19% but has indicated it is ready to accept a lower offer if ministers agree to negotiations.

It called for a 5% hike above the RPI inflation measure, which stood at 7.5% when they submitted their application to the Pay Review Committee in March.

But inflation has risen sharply since then, with the RPI coming in at 14.2% in September amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

RCN leader Pat Cullen has warned nurses’ actions would escalate unless ministers reverse their refusal to negotiate pay.

On Thursday, the NHS ran a holiday-style service across many sectors, although the RCN staffed chemotherapy, emergency cancer services, dialysis, intensive care units, neonatal and child intensive care, among several other services.

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