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RCN says government ‘remains unprepared to support members’ with five days to go before strike dates confirmed

17 Nov 2022

In a letter addressed to the health secretary, we are calling for ‘formal, detailed negotiations’ on NHS pay and patient safety ahead of strike dates and locations being announced next week, following the autumn statement.

RCN members at pay rally with placard 'Time to pay nursing staff fairly'

Today (17 November), Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt delivered the autumn fiscal statement to parliament, missing a vital opportunity to address the nursing workforce crisis and the pay rise that’s needed to keep people in the profession.

Last week, members at the majority of NHS employers across the UK voted to take strike action.

In a letter to the health secretary following the autumn statement, RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen said recent meetings with Steve Barclay, while cordial in tone, had not resolved the issues at the heart of the proposed strike action. She said: "I waited for today’s autumn statement by the Chancellor before concluding that the government remains unprepared to give my members the support they need at work and at home."

We are calling on the health secretary to open formal, detailed negotiations on NHS pay and patient safety in the next five days or we will announce our first strike dates and locations for December.

In the letter, she said her recent meetings with the health secretary were welcome but added that “I must not let my members, nor the public confuse these meetings for serious discussions on the issues of NHS pay and patient safety”.

She added: “You have again asked to meet in the coming days and for this third occasion I must be clearer in my expectation.

“There is only value in meeting if you wish to discuss - in formal, detailed negotiations - the issues that have caused our members to vote for strike action.” 

The UK’s health and care system is in crisis – with record demand and waiting times, a growing backlog, and upcoming winter pressures likely to be exacerbated by rising living costs.

Nursing staff shortages across the UK were already severe, sustained and unresolved before the pandemic. The scale of the issue continues to be of serious concern, with nursing vacancies at a record high – currently around 60,000 within the NHS and social care across the UK.

Nursing staff are already long overdue a pay rise that recognises their value, skills and expertise. Recently commissioned analysis by London Economics found that the salaries of experienced nurses have declined by 20% in real terms over the last 10 years, in most of the UK. This means nurses are effectively working unpaid one day a week, and facing extreme financial hardship.

We’re campaigning for a pay rise of 5% above RPI inflation to overcome those real-terms pay cuts, support nursing staff through the cost-of-living crisis and recognise their safety critical skills.  

Page last updated - 17/04/2023