NHS strikes: government ‘could fast-track NHS pay rise next year’ after nursing and ambulance union stalemate

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Thousand of nurses and ambulance workers have taken industrial action over the last week

The government could fast-track an NHS pay rise next year after 48 hours of historic strikes by nurses and paramedics, according to reports.

Thousands of nurses took part in industrial action on 15 and 20 December, with ambulance staff also staging their biggest strike in 30 years on 21 December.

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Health Secretary Steve Barclay is now poised to offer an expedited pay deal, the Daily Telegraph reported. This comes after unions and ministers remained in stalemate over pay negotiations on Wednesday night (21 December).

The Telegraph said a source close to Mr Barclay revealed he is eager to “speed up the process” to give NHS staff a pay rise early next year to break the deadlock. Unions have said they expect NHS workers to be offered a 2% increase next year, based on a letter sent by Mr Barclay last month to the NHS Pay Review Body.

Thousand of nurses and ambulance workers have taken industrial action over the last weekThousand of nurses and ambulance workers have taken industrial action over the last week
Thousand of nurses and ambulance workers have taken industrial action over the last week | Kim Mogg/NationalWorld

At least 11,509 staff were absent from work across England during strikes by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on Tuesday (20 December) and 13,797 appointments and procedures had to be rescheduled, according to NHS England. Thousands of ambulance workers also took industrial action on Wednesday, with members of the military stepping in to take their place and trusts telling patients only to call 999 in the case of a life-threatening emergency. The next ambulance strike is due to take place on 28 December.

NHS Providers - the membership organisation for NHS hospital, mental health, community and ambulance services - warned the strikes will have a knock-on effect on appointments and said it expected a return to “very high numbers” of emergency calls in coming days. It  also said some demand had shifted to other services or not materialised as expected.

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The number of people phoning 999 seemed to have dropped in some parts of England on Wednesday and NHS Providers said there had been “varying levels of disruption” across the country. The organisation said that demand for care across the whole healthcare system remained high and trust leaders were reporting ongoing delays to ambulance services and overcrowding at some accident and emergency departments.

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