Nurses strike for second day across England ahead of biggest walkout in NHS history

The NHS  is likely to run a bank holiday-style service in many areas

Health leaders have started to make contingency plans for the possibility of the biggest walkout in the history of the NHS as the pay dispute between staff and the government continues.

NHS experts expressed “huge concern” after it was announced that ambulance workers would join nurses in a combined day of action next month.

On Wednesday (18 January), the GMB union said more than 10,000 ambulance workers – including paramedics, emergency care assistants and call handlers – will stage strikes on 6 February, 20 February, 6 March and 20 March.

Nurses are also due to strike on 6 February meaning mass disruption can be expected across the NHS on that day. Nurses will also strike the following day, 7 February. The walkouts mark the first time both ambulance staff and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have acted on the same day.

The escalation in industrial action comes as thousands of nurses are striking again on Thursday this week (19 January) at more than 55 NHS trusts in England, in a second day of industrial action.

More than 1,000 Unite members in the Welsh Ambulance Service are also holding the first of two 24-hour strikes on Thursday, with the second taking place on 23 January.

Patients are being warned to expect widespread disruption to health services on Wednesday and Thursday (Photo: PA)

Patients are being warned to expect widespread disruption to health services on Thursday as thousands of nurses stage walkout for across England. Nursing staff from more than 55 NHS trusts are taking part in industrial action on Wednesday and Thursday this week, which comes after two days of action in December.

Thousands of operations and appointments are expected to be cancelled over the two consecutive days of strike action, with the health service likely to run a bank holiday-style service in many areas. In December, almost 30,000 needed to be rescheduled due to strike action.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has agreed to staff chemotherapy, emergency cancer services, dialysis, critical care units, neonatal and paediatric intensive care. Some areas of mental health and learning disability and autism services are also exempt from the strike, while trusts will be told they can request staffing for specific clinical needs. As for adult A&E and urgent care, nurses will work Christmas Day-style rotas.

The NHS said patients should attend all their usual appointments unless they have been contacted, and to seek urgent care if needed during the strikes. NHS England has advised that patients should use services “wisely” by going to NHS 111 online but continuing to call 999 in a life-threatening emergency.

RCN chief executive, Pat Cullen, said on Wednesday: “Today’s strike action by nursing staff is a modest escalation before a sharp increase in under three weeks from now. If a week is a long time for Rishi Sunak, three weeks is the time he needs to get this resolved.

“People aren’t dying because nurses are striking. Nurses are striking because people are dying. That is how severe things are in the NHS and it is time the Prime Minister led a fight for its future. Today’s record number of unfilled nurse jobs cannot be left to get worse. Pay nursing staff fairly to turn this around and give the public the care they deserve.”

Government says NHS wage rises ‘unaffordable’

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said while he recognises the cost of living pressures on NHS staff, “unaffordable” wage rises “will mean cutting patient care”.

The RCN has been calling for a pay rise at 5% above inflation, though it has said it will accept a lower offer. Inflation was running at 7.5% when it submitted the 5% figure to the independent pay review body last March, but it has since soared, with RPI standing at 14% in November.

Writing in the Independent, Barclay said: “If we provide unaffordable pay rises to NHS staff, we will take billions of pounds away from where we need it most. Unaffordable pay hikes will mean cutting patient care and stoking the inflation that would make us all poorer.”

He insisted there is “much common ground” between both sides of the dispute, stating that ministers “want to work with union leaders to improve the NHS and deliver better care” and that a “fair way” to a resolution can be found.

Barclay added that he wants to continue the “constructive dialogue” with unions and to agree minimum staffing levels during industrial action “to ensure patients are always protected”.

He has signalled that pay negotiations will look ahead to next year rather than reflecting on the 2022/23 pay award, which unions have said must be reviewed. He said: “Patients will understandably be worried by the prospect of further strike action by nurses – the previous two days of nurse strikes saw around 30,000 elective procedures and outpatient appointments cancelled.

“It is inevitable industrial action will have an impact on patients. I have had constructive talks with the Royal College of Nursing and other unions about the 2023/24 pay process and look forward to continuing that dialogue.”

It comes after Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, urged ministers to renew pay talks with unions in a bid to halt further industrial action, suggesting that waiting lists are likely to remain high unless the government gives the “NHS a fighting chance”.

According to the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations, health leaders fear there will be a “cumulative impact” of each additional strike day, with more operations and outpatient appointments having to be rescheduled.

Calculations by the organisation suggest that if this week’s nursing strikes match the same level as December, then more than 4,500 operations will be cancelled alongside 25,000 outpatient appointments. This would take the total to about 10,000 cancelled operations and more than 50,000 cancelled outpatient appointments.

Which NHS trusts are affected by the nurse strikes?

East Midlands

January

  • NHS Derby and Derbyshire ICB (Joined Up Care Derbyshire)
  • Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
  • Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust

February

  • Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust

Eastern

January

  • Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust
  • Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust
  • Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
  • West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
  • NHS Mid and South Essex ICB
  • NHS Norfolk and Waveney ICB
  • NHS Suffolk and North East Essex ICB

February

  • Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
  • East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

London

January

  • Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust
  • St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust
  • University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • NHS South West London ICB

February

  • Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust
  • Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust
  • St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

North West

January

  • University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust
  • Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust
  • Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • The Christie NHS Foundation Trust
  • Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust
  • Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
  • Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust
  • Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • NHS Cheshire and Merseyside ICB
  • St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
  • NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB
  • Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

February

  • Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust
  • Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Found Trust
  • St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust
  • North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust
  • Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Found Trust
  • The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Found Trust
  • The Christie NHS Foundation Trust
  • Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust
  • Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
  • The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust

Northern

January

  • County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust
  • South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • North of England CSU (NECS)

February

  • University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust
  • The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
  • County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust
  • Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust
  • North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust

South East

January

  • Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust
  • East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust
  • University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust
  • Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust
  • Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • NHS Kent and Medway ICB
  • NHS Surrey Heartlands ICB
  • Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust
  • Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust
  • University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
  • Solent NHS Trust

February

  • University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust
  • Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust
  • University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust
  • Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust
  • East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust
  • South East Coast Ambulance Service
  • South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

South West

January

  • Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust
  • Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust
  • Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust
  • Somerset NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust

February

  • Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust
  • University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust
  • Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
  • Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust
  • North Bristol NHS Trust
  • Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust
  • Somerset NHS Foundation Trust
  • South Western Ambulance Service NHS Found Trust

West Midlands

January

  • Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust
  • Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trust
  • NHS Black Country ICB
  • Midlands and Lancashire CSU

February

  • Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust
  • University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
  • The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
  • Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Yorkshire & Humber

January

  • Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust
  • Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust
  • Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Sheffield Childrens NHS Foundation Trust
  • NHS West Yorkshire ICB

February

  • Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust
  • The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

Wales

February

  • Cardiff and Vale University Health Board
  • Powys Teaching Local Health Board
  • Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust Headquarters
  • Hywel Dda University Health Board
  • Swansea Bay University Health Board
  • Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board
  • Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board
  • Velindre NHS Trust
  • Public Health Wales
  • Health Education and Improvement Wales Health Authority
  • NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership
  • Digital Health and Care Wales

National employers

January

  • NHS Resolution
  • NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT)