Your web browser is outdated and may be insecure

The RCN recommends using an updated browser such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome

RCN demands ‘practical and urgent’ government action on NHS crisis

4 Jan 2023

We’ve written to the Health Secretary urging him to show renewed urgency in opening NHS pay negotiations to avert more nursing strikes later this month.

Health care emergency

The letter to Steve Barclay demands urgent government action to tackle the crisis engulfing the NHS. It places fault firmly at the feet of ministers for disingenuously insisting services are adequately resourced when evidence shows they’re at the point of collapse.

In the letter, RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen writes: “Nursing staff are being forced to care for patients in corridors and other inappropriate locations against their own clinical judgement. This practice is grossly unsafe for the patient and the registered professional alike and the risk to life is severe. Furthermore, nursing these patients, many of whom are elderly and vulnerable, in such conditions is undignified and demeaning and should not be tolerated.”

The letter follows a speech by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier today (4 January) in which he set out five government priorities for the coming year, including tackling the crisis in the NHS. 

He spoke of cutting waiting times, alleviating pressures in A&E, and recruiting record numbers of doctors and nurses. But in the letter, Pat dismisses these as “false promises” and “hollow boasts” when what is needed is practical and urgent measures. The Prime Minister’s language appeared “detached from the reality of what is happening and why,” she wrote. 

With more NHS nursing strikes just two weeks away, members will have been hoping for more reassurance from the Prime Minister, who said the government is considering how to balance the right to strike with the right of the public to go about their lives, intimating his intention to introduce legislation to curb the rights of members to strike, which we would strongly oppose. 

On NHS pay, the Prime Minister said his door is always open to “good, two-way conversations rooted in what’s reasonable and affordable”. However, we've offered to open formal negotiations on pay multiple times and the UK government has refused. 

Today, we have repeated that offer, urging the government to show a renewed sense of urgency in opening negotiations on the current NHS pay award.

As it stands now, the planned RCN strikes in NHS workplaces across England will go ahead on 18 and 19 January.

Page last updated - 04/06/2023