Ministers are considering a new offer to health workers in a bid to head off NHS strikes next week.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay is set to hold a new round of talks with union leaders in the coming days ahead of planned strikes by nurses.
Whitehall sources said ministers were working on options for resolving the strikes, which could include a one-off payment to reflect cost of living pressures.
One source said there was a recognition that union leaders ‘have to get something for this year’ before they will consider calling off the current wave of industrial action.
However, talks about what level of payment might be offered, and how it would be funded, remain at an early stage.
Whitehall sources said ministers were working on options for resolving the strikes, which could include a one-off payment to reflect cost of living pressures. Pictured: Kate Bell, newly appointed assistant of general secretary of Trades Union Congress, gives a solidarity speech to the emergency service workers on strike, Waterloo, London, January 11, 2023
Health Secretary Steve Barclay is set to hold a new round of talks with union leaders in the coming days ahead of planned strikes by nurses, January 10, 2023
No formal proposal has been put to the Treasury, and a Government source said there were no plans ‘at this time’ to provide extra funding, meaning ministers would have to secure efficiencies to pay for it.
There are also concerns that any payment to resolve the health dispute would set a precedent for other sectors facing industrial strife, including education and transport, potentially landing the taxpayer with a bill running into billions of pounds. The moves came as 25,000 ambulance workers staged a second day of walkouts yesterday, and unions warned they could boycott talks on the next pay round, due in April.
Fourteen unions representing more than a million health staff said yesterday that they would not be submitting evidence to the independent NHS pay review body for the next wage round while the current disputes remain unresolved.
Sara Gorton, of Unison, said: ‘The pay review body process doesn’t fit the current context. The NHS staffing crisis is so acute only prompt action on pay, both for this and the next financial year, can start to turn things around.’
Government sources said the pay review process would continue with or without input from the unions, but urged them to reconsider. Downing Street said the unions had originally campaigned for the pay review process to be set up. A spokesman said: ‘It is disappointing they have taken this step.’
No formal proposal has been put to the Treasury, and a Government source said there were no plans ‘at this time’ to provide extra funding. Pictured: Ambulances in the grounds of Wellington Barracks, London, January 11, 2023
Ambulance bosses yesterday urged people to only dial 999 for ‘life or limb’ emergencies and admitted non-life-threatening cases were ‘unlikely’ to get a call out. The two striking unions – Unison and the GMB – said members would respond to the most life-threatening ‘category one’ calls, where someone is not breathing or their heart has stopped.
But there was no guarantee that callers would receive a response to lower categories of calls, such as heart attacks, strokes and falls. Soldiers were drafted in to drive ambulances yesterday as paramedics, drivers, technicians and call handlers in England and Wales went on strike. Ambulances were pictured in the grounds of Wellington Barracks, central London, and the South Western Ambulance Service confirmed it would be ‘receiving military support’.
The same limitations remained from the previous strike last month, with military personnel unable to provide clinical care, drive through red lights or turn on blue lights. Speaking during Prime Ministers Questions, Rishi Sunak said: ‘What’s terrifying is right now people not knowing whether when they call 999 they will get the treatment that they need.’
There are also concerns that any payment to resolve the health dispute would set a precedent for other sectors facing industrial strife. Pictured: An ambulance worker lights a camp fire, Waterloo, London, January 11, 2023
NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, warned that the NHS would be hit harder by yesterday’s strike than last month’s as more staff, including call handlers, took action. It would have to deal with ‘pent up demand’ in the next few days.
Saffron Cordery, NHS Providers’ interim chief executive, said the NHS was able to ‘step forward and manage’ during industrial action, but that it was having a ‘knock-on effect’ on waiting lists and ‘treating people that need it in a timely fashion’.
Some NHS trusts in London yesterday warned that women giving birth at home might need to make their own way to hospital in case of emergency.
Meanwhile, only one in eight people (13 per cent) would now trust an ambulance to get them to hospital in an emergency due to the crisis in NHS care, a survey of 1,836 adults for ITV’s Good Morning Britain found.
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