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Budget: failure to address nurses’ pay prompts strike warning

RCN will announce strike dates and locations if government fails to come to the table for pay negotiations in next five days, plus budget highlights for nurses  
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

RCN will announce strike dates and locations if government fails to come to the table for pay negotiations in next five days, plus budget highlights for nurses

The government has been given five days to come to the table on pay negotiations for nurses before the RCN announces its first strike dates and locations.

Autumn statement failed to address nurses’ pay crisis

It comes after chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement today failed to address concerns around pay, with Mr Hunt instead focusing on workforce and social care.

He announced the NHS would get an extra £3.3 billion in each of the next two years to improve emergency, elective and primary

RCN will announce strike dates and locations if government fails to come to the table for pay negotiations in next five days, plus budget highlights for nurses

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivering the autumn budget Picture: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

The government has been given five days to come to the table on pay negotiations for nurses before the RCN announces its first strike dates and locations.

Autumn statement failed to address nurses’ pay crisis

It comes after chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement today failed to address concerns around pay, with Mr Hunt instead focusing on workforce and social care.

He announced the NHS would get an extra £3.3 billion in each of the next two years to improve emergency, elective and primary care performance, but did not address nurses’ pay concerns in his statement on 17 November.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen issued ultimatum after budget failed to mention pay crisis
Pat Cullen issued ultimatum after budget failed to mention pay crisis

In a letter sent to health and social care secretary Steve Barclay following the autumn budget, RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said the chancellor demonstrated that ‘the government remains unprepared to give my members the support they need at work and at home’.

‘It is now more than a week since we announced our ballot outcome and your department has dedicated more time to publicly criticising our members’ expectations than finding common ground and a satisfactory conclusion’, she wrote.

‘It is with regret that I write to say that unless our next meeting is formal pay negotiations, beginning within the next five days, we will be announcing the dates and locations of our December strike action.’

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay
Steve Barclay Picture: Alamy

Unions are expected to meet with Mr Barclay for a third time in the coming days.

Chancellor made no attempt to avert strike action

It comes as nurses prepare to walk out in the biggest nuring strike in NHS history over poor pay and patient safety concerns.

Other unions have criticised the chancellor’s statement, with Unison saying there was nothing in it to halt the pay crisis across the NHS.

‘The government acts like there’s no public sector pay or workforce crisis. Nothing was said today to change the minds of NHS staff currently voting on strike action,’ general secretary Christina McAnea added.

NHS workforce plan announced for next year

Addressing the workforce crisis in the NHS, Mr Hunt committed to an independently verified workforce plan next year, which is expected to set out how many nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals the health service will need in the long term.

Campaigners and trade unions have long been calling for a fully funded, long-term workforce plan to address the staffing crisis in the health service. It is not clear how the plan will be funded.

Adult social care will also get an additional £1 billion next year and £1.7 billion the year after to help more people get out of hospital on time and into social care.

How the chancellor’s autumn statement could affect nurses

  • Energy price guarantee will be kept until March 2024 but the energy rate will rise from April 2023, taking a typical household bill to as much as £3,000 per year
  • Average council tax bills are expected to go up as local authorities will be able to raise them by 5% without a referendum – currently they can only raise bills by 3%
  • Income tax personal allowance and national insurance threshold frozen until 2028
  • Rent increases for those living in social housing to be capped at 7%
  • Household support fund to be extended by 12 months. The grant helps struggling families and individuals pay for basic living costs such as food, energy and other essential goods
  • Additional cost of living payments – £900 to households on means-tested benefits and £150 for those on disability benefits from next year
  • National living wage to rise to £10.42 an hour from £9.50


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