Chief says NHS 'will not recover' if strikes become the norm

NHS chief says health service ‘will not recover’ if strikes become ‘business as usual’ – ahead of more walkouts from ambulance workers tomorrow

  • More than 2,600 ambulance workers will walkout tomorrow amid a pay dispute 
  • NHS boss Matthew Taylor said strikes were turning into a ‘war of attrition’
  • It comes as teachers, civil servants, train drivers and nurses plan more action 

The NHS ‘will not recover’ if strikes become ‘business as usual’, the health service’s chief has said as thousands of health workers are set to walkout in the coming weeks.

Tomorrow more than 2,600 ambulance workers will walkout amid an ongoing dispute about pay and conditions.

Speaking ahead of the industrial action, head of NHS Confederation Matthew Taylor said the strikes are turning into a ‘war of attrition’.

The NHS is bracing for the biggest industrial action next work, with nurses and physiotherapists also downing tools.

Over the coming weeks, a number of strikes are planned within the healthcare service, including from nurses, ambulance workers and physiotherapists

Britain will grind to a halt on February 1 as coordinated strike action takes place.

These include:

  • Civil servants who are members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) 
  • Teachers from the National Education Union
  • Train drivers from Aslef and Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) unions 
  • University staff from the University College Union

 

He told Times Radio: ‘Around a week ago, you might recall that there was a kind of sense of, of some opening up, it seemed as though the Secretary of State Steve Barclay was willing to talk about pay and unfortunately, that momentum that seemed to be there, has now been lost.

‘And this feels like we’re in a war of attrition.’

Members of the unions Unison, Unite and GMB at West Midlands Ambulance Service will stage a 24-hour walkout.

The strikes are said to only affect non-life-threatening calls.

The NHS boss said that the Government needed to end its ‘ambivalence’ towards the pay negotiations with unions and reach a compromise.

He added: ‘I think there’s a sense in Government that if they were to, to give way to compromise in health, then it would have knock-on effects on other public sector industrial disputes.

‘Well, I understand that, but I would call on the Government to be pragmatic, you know, what’s going on health is specific to health.

‘And if we don’t tackle it, if these strikes do become a kind of war of attrition, it becomes business as usual, then we will not be able to recover.’

Head of NHS Confederation Matthew Taylor (pictured) said the strikes are turning into a ‘war of attrition’

Tomorrow more than 2,600 ambulance workers will walkout amid an ongoing dispute about pay and conditions

Ahead of previous ambulance strikes that took place earlier this month and in December, patients were told Category 1 calls, meaning the most life-threatening situations such as heart attacks or strokes, would be responded to by ambulances.

But less urgent calls under Category 2, where situations are not deemed to be life threatening, were expected to have a longer wait time than usual for an ambulance.

Those urgent issues that fit into Category 3, such as a woman in late-stage labour, would not be a priority the public was told.

Last week Health Secretary Steve Barclay said he had not been reassured that ‘voluntary arrangements’ for emergency services during the ambulance strikes could ‘ensure patient and public safety’.

His letter to the GMB followed more than 10,000 ambulance workers walking out across nine ambulance services in England and Wales earlier this month.

Next month, nurses who are members of the Royal College of Nursing will also stage yet another walkout on February 6 and 7

Warnings children will be plunged back into lockdown-style online lessons as teachers strike over pay

 

Mr Barclay said that while he acknowledges Category 1 calls were responded to, he said there was a lack of cover for Category 2 calls in other parts of the country,

Mr Taylor said: ‘I think both sides are going to have to compromise. That’s how negotiation works.

‘But I think that the Government’s ambivalence about being willing to talk about pay doesn’t help.

‘I think that the trade unions have said, if we can negotiate about pay, then we’ll enter negotiation.

‘That creates an environment where it might be possible, for example, for the unions to be persuaded to delay their strikes, to put them on one side while those negotiations are taking place.

‘So I think it does fall to the Government.’

Industrial action from ambulance workers is the latest in a series of winter strikes affecting everything from health care to teaching.

On Friday, Unite announced it would be escalating strike action from ambulance members throughout February.

It said its members across England, Wales and Northern Ireland would stage 10 further strikes in the coming weeks, warning that even more dates could be added soon if the bitter pay row is not sorted.

The union’s general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘It’s this government’s disastrous handling of the NHS that has brought it to the breaking point, and as crisis piles on crisis, the prime minister is seen to be washing his hands of the dispute.

‘What a disgrace. What an abdication of leadership.’

Nurses have been striking for months now after RCN said its staff has been dealing with real terms pay cut of 20 per cent since 2010

Next month, nurses who are members of the Royal College of Nursing will also stage yet another walkout on February 6 and 7.

The RCN said its staff has been dealing with real terms pay cut of 20 per cent since 2010.

Now, they have called for a pay rise five per cent above inflation at 19.2 per cent.

Physiotherapists will also be among those striking health workers, with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CPS) planning strike action later this week on January 26 and February 9.

More than 4,000 physiotherapists from 30 NHS trusts across England will strike if a new pay offer is not put on the table.

But is not only the healthcare service that is being marred by industrial action.

Ahead of previous ambulance strikes that took place earlier this month and in December, patients were told Category 1 calls, meaning the most life-threatening situations such as heart attacks or strokes, would be responded to by ambulances

Last week Health Secretary Steve Barclay said he had not been reassured that ‘voluntary arrangements’ for emergency services during the ambulance strikes could ‘ensure patient and public safety’

When are the new Unite ambulance strike dates? 

Thursday January 26: Northern Ireland

Monday 6 February: West Midlands, North East, East Midlands, Wales, North West

Thursday 16 February: Northern Ireland

Friday 17 February: West Midlands, Northern Ireland

Monday 20 February: North East, East Midlands, Wales

Wednesday 22 February: North West

Thursday 23 February: Northern Ireland

Friday 24 February: Northern Ireland

Monday 6 March: West Midlands, North East, East Midlands, Wales, North West

Monday 20 March: West Midlands, North East, East Midlands, Wales, North West

Chaos is expected to continue on the country’s transport links as more railway strikes and bus strikes are planned in the coming weeks.

Last week, train drivers from the militant RMT and Aslef unions said more walkouts would take place on February 1 and 3.

It follows a number of strikes over December and January that caused havoc over the festive period.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Our negotiations will continue with the rail operators to create a package on jobs, conditions and pay that can be offered to our members.’

In a bid to end ongoing disruption, train operating companies have put forward their ‘best and final offer’.

This includes a minimum pay rise of 9 per cent over two years and promised there would be no compulsory redundancies until the end of December 2024.

While there are no strikes planned for Unite members working on Abellio in south and west London, the union has said the new pay offer is ‘unacceptable’ and fails to meet demands.

The union argues the pay offer would leave full-time drivers who have worked for the company for less than two years, earning £3.29 less per hour than those colleagues with more than two years in the service.

Around 100,000 civil servants are set to strike on February 1, following an ongoing row about pay, jobs and conditions.

The civil servant’s who are members of the Public and Commercial Services union are from 124 government departments.

The union is calling for a 10 per cent pay rise, as well as protections from job cuts and pensions.

In December Border Force staff, National Highways workers and driving examiners also walked out.

Education will also be affected by industrial action.

Thousands of teachers in England and Wales will strike after the National Education Union (NEU) balloted 300,000 members who want a ‘fully funded, above-inflation pay rise’. Pictured members of the Educational Institute in Scotland striking earlier this month 

Nurses went on strike on Wednesday and Thursday this week to demand more pay 

Thousands of teachers in England and Wales will strike after the National Education Union (NEU) balloted 300,000 members who want a ‘fully funded, above-inflation pay rise’.

February 1 will mark the first day of strike action, with 23,000 schools across the two countries affected, with a further two strikes taking place in other parts of the country on February 14 and 28.

It follows ongoing walkouts from teachers in Scotland, leading some schools to close for the day.

The staggered regional strikes will last 16 days, with two different local authority areas striking each day.

The Educational Institute Scotland rejected a five per cent pay offer from the Scottish government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).

Instead, they are demanding a 10 per cent pay rise in line with inflation.

Members of the University College Union are also staging fresh strikes, affecting university students.

Train drivers from the militant RMT and Aslef unions said more walkouts would take place on February 1 and 3. Pictured: RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch

On February 1, 70,000 staff members from 150 universities will strike, over ongoing issues of pay, pensions and working conditions.

Another 17 days of strike action is also planned throughout February and March.

In a bid to stop the sheer amount of disruption that has been seen over the last few months, the Government has proposed a strike bill that would set minimum service levels for frontline workers holding industrial action.

Last week, MPs voted in favour of the bill which gives ministers the power to draw up minimum service laws, that could see workers fired if they refuse to work during a strike.

After a fiery debate in the House of Commons about the proposals, MPs voted to accept the first reading of the bill by a margin of 60, with 309 voting in favour compared to 249 against.

Unions have fiercely criticised the bill and Labour accused the Government of ‘threatening nurses with the strike’ by implementing the changes.

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