NHS nurses’ strikes not to blame for record waiting lists
Staff need reassurance about winter pressures and not to be held responsible for backlogs, nursing leader insists, as she urges minister to ‘correct’ NHS pay deal
Blaming NHS strikes for record waiting lists is misguided and does nothing to reassure nurses as the health service braces for a challenging winter, a nursing leader said.
RCN chief nurse Nicola Ranger urged the government to ‘correct’ its decision to give nurses one of the lowest pay rises in the public sector, warning it would be naïve to think nurses’ dispute with the government was over.
Record NHS waiting lists: ‘NHS industrial action partly to blame’
Health and social care secretary Victoria Atkins told BBC One’s Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday that avoiding an NHS winter crisis was her top priority. She said planning for winter started earlier than usual, but that NHS industrial action was partly to blame for record waiting lists.
‘We have plans in place to deal with urgent and emergency care, to deal with electives,’ she said. ‘But we do have to acknowledge that industrial action has really had an impact on waiting lists. Since December last year we’ve seen some 1.1 million appointments have to be rescheduled.
Ms Atkins said one way the government was working to avoid a winter crisis was ensuring the NHS had enough staff, including keeping a manifesto promise to recruit 50,000 additional nurses into the health service.
‘We are very clear we want our doctors and nurses to be able to work in the NHS because that way …we will be able to prepare for the future as well.’
NHS crisis not confined to winter
Professor Ranger said the government must be careful not to over-claim success when so many shifts are understaffed and the number of unfilled nurse jobs is still more than 40,000.
‘We might be discussing the winter crisis, but NHS performance has been falling over a decade regardless of the season. Cold months bring particular challenges, but nursing staff are working in dire situations year-round,’ she said.
‘There is a real frustration amongst nursing staff that they cannot deliver the care they want for their patients.
‘The government should focus on correcting its decision to hand nurses one of the lowest pay rises in the public sector, deliver safe staffing levels including in legislation, and provide the investment the workforce plan needs to succeed.’
Government ruled out new talks on NHS nurse pay
Last week, RCN general secretary Pat Cullen called on Ms Atkins to reopen pay talks after NHS consultants were offered an additional pay rise of 12.8% on top of the of the 6% increase already awarded, meaning some will see their pay go up by 19%. Nurses received a 5% pay award for 2023-24 alongside a series of one-off payments.
But the Department of Health and Social Care ruled out the possibility of restarting pay negotiations with nurses.
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