NHS strikes: when are they, and what will happen?

Nurses have announced further action and more strikes are expected from junior doctors and consultants. What does this mean for patients?

When are the next strikes?

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has announced a 48-hour strike, from 8pm on 30 April to 8pm on 2 May. It has been reported that the union is preparing for a wave of strikes that could last until Christmas. Junior doctors may also announce further strikes and consultants are due to ballot on strike action next month.

What is the prospect of a pay deal?

The government announced a revised offer for more than a million NHS staff in March under the national pay system Agenda for Change, which covers all NHS staff, except doctors, dentists and top managers. Ministers are proposing an additional unconsolidated cash lump sum on top of the 2022-23 pay award of 2% of an individual’s salary, with an NHS “backlog bonus” worth between £1,250 and £1,600, and a 5% rise in pay for 2023-24.

It was announced on Friday that RCN members had rejected the pay offer, but on the same day Unison announced its members had voted to accept. Members of Unite and GMB are voting on the offer, with ballots closing on 28 April.

So what happens now?

The NHS staff council, which includes union and NHS employer representatives, will meet on 2 May and formally report the results of the union member votes. The pay deal can then be implemented if there is a majority decision to accept it. The RCN could continue with its strike action, but if it resulted in an improved offer, other NHS workers would almost certainly demand matched pay rises.

What about a deal with the doctors?

Steve Barclay, the health secretary, has said the demand by junior doctors for a 35% pay rise is “unreasonable”, and there are no ongoing talks between the two sides. Barclay has said that if the British Medical Association (BMA) was willing to significantly scale down its demands, talks could resume. The BMA has asked the conciliation service Acas to look into ways of breaking the deadlock.

Hospital consultants are also considering action. BMA representatives say they have held “positive discussions” with the health secretary, but will ballot for strike action from 15 May if their demands are not met.

What does this mean for patients?

The NHS Confederation warned last week that up to 350,000 appointments and operations were likely to be cancelled as a result of the junior doctors’ strike. In addition to the inconvenience and distress caused to patients last week, further industrial action will compound the challenges involved in clearing the backlog of non-emergency procedures.


Jon Ungoed-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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