Ballot paper for industrial action

Health leaders react to first ever UK nurse strike

For the first time in its 106-year history, members from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have voted for UK-wide industrial action, with some strikes expected to begin before the new year.

The inevitable disruption caused by these strikes will affect many UK health settings – all NHS employers in both Northern Ireland and Scotland will take part in the strikes, whilst all but one of the health boards in Wales met the legal threshold.

Many of the biggest English hospitals will also participate however some didn’t meet the legal thresholds either, meaning at least 50% of members didn’t vote at all or at least 50% of those who did vote, didn’t back industrial action.

Responding to the news, NHS Providers’ interim chief executive, Saffron Cordery, said: "Trust leaders have been planning for possible strikes. Their priorities are to ensure the safe delivery of care and services for patients during any industrial action and to support the wellbeing of their staff.

"We need to see the detail of what any action might look like but trust leaders will do all they can to minimise disruption for patients.”

Chief executive of the NHS Confederation, Matthew Taylor, responded saying: “We hope that the negotiating parties can reach a compromise that will both minimise disruption to patient care and benefit frontline staff. The last thing anyone wants is a ‘war of attrition’ playing out over many months.

“Health leaders are now focused on understanding the specific implications of industrial action in their services and putting in place to ensure that as a minimum, urgent, emergency and critical care services can continue on any strike days. If any changes need to be made to non-urgent care services, such as check-ups and elective care, they will ensure this is communicated in advance to patients."

Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, Darren Hughes, affirmed that health officials “know that this is not a decision that RCN members who voted for action will have taken lightly” before saying: “Health leaders and frontline staff are now focused on understanding the specific implications of industrial action in their services and putting in place contingency plans to ensure that as a minimum, urgent, emergency and critical care services can continue on any potential strike days.

“If any changes need to be made to non-urgent care services, such as check-ups and elective care, they will ensure this is communicated in advance to patients.”

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