NHS strikes escalate with same-day action by nurses and ambulance staff | Industrial action

The NHS is facing a day of massive disruption in February when tens of thousands of nurses and ambulance staff strike on the same day in their ongoing pay dispute.

Hospitals and other services in England and Wales will be seriously affected by the joint walkout on 6 February, which represents a major escalation of health workers’ battle with ministers.

It will be the first time nurses and ambulance personnel have staged a stoppage at the same time.

Nurses in England and Wales were already due to strike on 6 February but the GMB union announced on Wednesday that it would also call more than 10,000 paramedics, call handlers and other ambulance service staff out on the same date as one of four more days of industrial action.

Their combined action will force NHS care providers to cancel thousands of operations and outpatient appointments and may lead to patients having to get themselves to A&E.

The loss of so many key members of staff will raise questions about how the NHS will cope.

“GMB’s ambulance workers are angry. In their own words ‘they are done’,” said Rachel Harrison, the union’s national secretary.

“Ministers have made things worse by demonising the ambulance workers who provided life-and-limb cover on strike days, playing political games with their scaremongering.”

NHS leaders voiced concern at the likely impact of the action and frustration that ministers are still refusing to hold detailed pay talks with the 14 health trade unions.

Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “This escalation takes us deeper into the situation NHS leaders have been warning against – a war of attrition between the government and unions spanning several months at a time when NHS services are seeing unprecedented pressures.”

He urged the health secretary, Steve Barclay, to abandon his stance of not talking to unions about a bigger rise than the £1,400-a-head for 2022-23 which he has repeatedly insisted is all the government can afford.

“Leaders across the NHS are getting increasingly frustrated with the impasse we seem to have reached – in spite of record demand for care and ongoing industrial action, November was one of the most productive months for the NHS on record. Our members want to see government come to the table with unions to engage meaningfully on pay so that this situation can be resolved,” Taylor added.

GMB members in ambulance services will also strike on 20 February and 6 and 20 March.

The Unite union is also preparing to announce that its members will hold a series of strikes in ambulance services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in January and February.

Sharon Graham, Unite’s general secretary, said the government’s refusal to negotiate and plans to limit by law the impact of future strikes means that there is “growing anger among NHS workers and as a result growing support for strike action”.

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