Numerous strikes across the health sector are taking place in December over pay and staffing issues. But which NHS staff are striking in December and when? Here’s what you need to know.
When are NHS staff striking in December?
Nurses who are members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) went out on strike on 15 and 20 December.
Pat Cullen, RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive, said: “Every member of nursing staff feels a heavy weight of responsibility to make this strike safe. Patients are already at great risk and we will not add to it.” She added: “Nursing staff do not want to take this action but ministers have chosen strikes over negotiations. They can stop this at any point.”
RCN members working for NHS employers in England took industrial action at many locations where the legal mandate for strike action was secured last month. There was also strike action throughout Northern Ireland and at all but one NHS employer in Wales.
Thousands of ambulance workers and other NHS staff will strike on December 21 in a row over pay, three unions have announced. The GMB, Unison and Unite are coordinating industrial action across England and Wales after accusing the government of ignoring pleas for a decent wage rise.
The GMB said more than 10,000 ambulance workers across nine trusts in England and Wales will strike. Paramedics, Emergency Care Assistants, call handlers and other staff will also walk out on 28 December.
The GMB members will strike at the:
- South West Ambulance Service
- South East Coast Ambulance Service
- North West Ambulance Service
- South Central Ambulance Service
- North East Ambulance Service
- East Midlands Ambulance Service
- West Midlands Ambulance Service
- Welsh Ambulance Service
- Yorkshire Ambulance Service
GMB representatives will now meet with individual trusts to discuss requirements for life-and-limb cover.
Rachel Harrison, GMB national secretary, said: “After 12 years of Conservative cuts to the service and their pay packets, NHS staff have had enough. The last thing they want to do is take strike action but the government has left them with no choice.
“Health Secretary Steve Barclay needs to listen and engage with us about pay. If he can’t talk to us about this most basic workforce issue, what on Earth is he Health Secretary for? The government could stop this strike in a heartbeat – but they need to wake up and start negotiating on pay.”
Unite said more than 1,600 of its members at the West Midlands, North West and North East ambulance service trusts will join the walkout. It said the action is a “stark warning” to the Government that it must stem the “crisis” engulfing the NHS.
Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Make no mistake, we are now in the fight of our lives for the very NHS itself. These strikes are a stark warning – our members are taking a stand to save our NHS from this government. Patients’ lives are already at risk but this government is sitting on the sidelines, dodging its responsibility to sort out the crisis that it has created.
“Ministers can’t keep hiding behind the pay review body. They know full well it does not address the desperate need to get huge numbers of NHS workers off the breadline. Fail to act now to avert these strikes and the blame will rest firmly at the Government’s door.”
Throughout the strike, Unite said it will maintain essential emergency cover for patients.
Ambulance crews in Unison working for five services in England including London, Yorkshire, the North West, North East and South West will also strike.
Unison said its strike, involving paramedics, emergency care assistants, ambulance technicians and other 999 crew members, will run from noon to midnight. The ambulance workers are to be joined by Unison nurses, porters, healthcare assistants, cleaners and other NHS workers at two Liverpool hospitals, who will also take action that day. The strike at the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and Liverpool University Hospital starts at 7.30am on Wednesday 21 December and ends 24 hours later.
Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “The government will only have itself to blame if there are strikes in the NHS before Christmas. Ambulance staff and their health colleagues don’t want to inconvenience anyone but ministers are refusing to do the one thing that could prevent disruption – that’s start genuine talks about pay.
“Wages are too low to stop health workers quitting the NHS. As more and more hand in their notice, there are fewer staff left to care for patients. The public knows that’s the reason behind lengthy waits at A&E, growing ambulances delays, postponed operations and cancelled clinics.
“Threatened NHS strikes in Scotland were called off because ministers there understand higher wages and improved staffing levels go hand in hand. Unfortunately, the penny’s yet to drop for the Westminster government.”
Are any other ballots taking place?
Health workers belonging to Unison and working in Northern Ireland have already voted to take action over pay and staffing. In Wales, the threshold necessary for strike action was not met anywhere and its health committee is to meet to decide on its next steps.
Unite continues to ballot 10,000 more NHS workers at 38 different employers across England and Wales, with the results expected later this month. Unison is also about to begin reballoting around 13,000 NHS staff working for 10 trusts and ambulance services where turnout in the recent strike vote fell just short of the threshold required by law.