NHS November strikes set to be bigger and more disruptive

The NHS strike planned by unions on 24 November is set to be even bigger and more disruptive than the action taken last month, with even more unions now agreeing to take part.

On 13 October six unions representing about 400,000 staff walked out for four hours causing disruption across the country. Military personnel had to be drafted in to drive ambulances in London, in the West Midlands ambulances were only responding to life-threatening calls, while in hospitals clinics had to be postponed, antenatal classes were cancelled and operations had to be called off due to a lack of staff.

The six unions who took part – Unison, Unite, GMB, Ucatt, Managers in Partnership and the Royal College Of Midwives – represent a mix of nurses, midwives, paramedics, therapists, porters, cooks, cleaners, healthcare assistants, medical secretaries, admin staff and managers. They will be joined for the second strike by members of the British Association of Occupational Therapists, the Society of Radiographers and Prison Officers Association (POA), which represents staff working on secure psychiatric units.

The Society of Radiographers took separate strike action last month, walking out on 20 October, but has decided to coordinate with other unions for this next round.

It is estimated up to 500,000 staff could take part in the walk-out, although unions say their members will still provide care for emergency situations and the most severely ill patients.

In addition to the four-hour strike the unions will also take other industrial action for the rest of the week, working-to-rule where they do not do any unpaid overtime and insist on taking their rest breaks. Radiographers will also work to guidance regarding appointment times, which recommend all ultrasound examinations should take a minimum of 20 minutes.

For the action short of a strike they are expected to be joined by three further unions, the Home Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists and British Dietetic Association.

Christina McAnea, Unison head of health and chair of the NHS staff-side trade unions, said: “For many in the NHS, last month’s strike was a first. The next industrial action will be bigger as more unions will be joining it. Jeremy Hunt needs to listen to NHS workers who feel this Government is treating them with contempt.

“NHS workers are overworked and underpaid. Most patients would be shocked to know that one in five of the NHS workers who care for them need to do a second job just to survive and many have to borrow money every month to make ends meet or resort to foodbanks.”

Unions and staff are angry over the government’s decision to institute a below-inflation 1% non-consolidated pay rise, which the 600,000 staff who receive progression pay increases over 1% will not receive. The government ignored the recommendations of the NHS Pay Review Body, which specifically said that a non-consolidated pay award could have an “adverse impact on staff engagement and motivation” and recommended against it. 

During the last strike Jeremy Hunt said that the NHS couldn’t afford a 1% pay rise alongside incremental increases. He added that if he agreed to the unions' pay demands it would lead to 14,000 frontline jobs being cut over two years.

Steve Gillan, general secretary of the POA, said: “It is regrettable we are having to take this action but we believe the Coalition government were entirely wrong to interfere with the recommendations of the NHS Pay Review Body. Our members are angry they have been treated in this manner. They do a dangerous job on behalf of society and deserve to be treated fairly.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "NHS staff are our greatest asset and we know they are working extremely hard. This is why despite tough financial times, we've protected the NHS budget and now have 13,500 more clinical staff than in 2010. We want to protect these increases and cannot afford incremental pay increases – which disproportionately reward the highest earners – on top of a general pay rise without risking frontline NHS jobs.”

The second strike will follow action also to be taken this month in Wales. Members of Unison Wales will take a week of action starting on 10 November. The Welsh government, instead of instituting the recommended 1% pay rise, offered a one-off non-consolidated payment of £160 instead.

Dawn Bowden, head of health for Unison in Wales, said: "NHS members don’t take action often or lightly. For many of our members, this will be the first time they walk out as the last action over pay was 32 years ago. The NHS runs on the goodwill of its workers, but that goodwill is beginning to run low.

"We understand the complexities within the Welsh budget, but the workforce cannot be expected to continue to plug the financial gap in the Welsh NHS. This is becoming increasingly difficult for our members to swallow given the unnecessary and politically driven battering that the Welsh health workers and services are receiving at a UK level.”

(Image: c. Ben Birchall/PA Wire)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email us directly at [email protected]


Liz   05/11/2014 at 14:23

I disagree totally with Jeremy Hunt regarding front line staff. What should be done is to cut the middle layers of management and also consultants/managers who are brought in at huge cost to each Trust. They come for a few months and then leave and nothing changes!!! Bring back the Royal School of Nursing to encourage more nurses who care and not some who have a degree but no kindest (I’ve seen first hand) in nursing.. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians..

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