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Employment

Here’s when and where nurses are going on strike

NHS nurses will stage walkouts in December after the Royal College of Nursing announced its first ever strike over pay and patient safety

NHS nurses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are set to stage their biggest ever strike in December over pay and patient safety.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union has announced the first walkouts in its 106-year history will take place on December 15 and December 20 after the Westminster government turned down its offer of “formal, detailed negotiations”.

In Scotland, the RCN has paused announcing strikes after its government reopened negotiations.

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RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: “Nursing staff have had enough of being taken for granted, enough of low pay and unsafe staffing levels, enough of not being able to give our patients the care they deserve.”

Here’s everything we know so far about the strike.

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When are nurses going on strike?

The RCN said the first strike action will take place on Thursday December 15 and Tuesday December 20. It has yet to announce further dates.

Announcing the strikes, Cullen said: “Ministers have had more than two weeks since we confirmed that our members felt such injustice that they would strike for the first time.

“My offer of formal negotiations was declined and instead ministers have chosen strike action. They have the power and the means to stop this by opening serious talks that address our dispute.”

Where are nurses going on strike?

The full list of NHS trusts taking part in the strikes will be announced next week, the RCN has said. NHS trusts voted individually on the strike action, and it has been reported strikes will affect more than 150 of them, not including those in Scotland.

All NHS trusts in Northern Ireland will see strikes having met the threshold for walkouts, along with all bar one in Wales. All NHS trusts in Scotland also voted to walk out, but the strikes are on hold after the country’s government reopened negotiations.

In England, nurses will strike in “many of the biggest hospitals”, the RCN has said.

One of London’s largest hospitals, St Thomas’ Hospital, opposite the House of Commons, will see staff walk out, while trusts to vote for walkouts include Liverpool University Hospitals, King’s College Hospital, Hertfordshire Community, University Hospitals Birmingham and The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals.

Click here to see the full list.

Why are nurses going on strike?

Britain’s nurses are facing a workforce crisis. The number of nurses and midwives quitting their jobs has risen for the first time in four years – suggesting conditions are even worse than during the pandemic. On average, 500 nurses are leaving every week. 

In the last year, 25,000 nursing staff around the UK left the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register. There are 47,000 unfilled registered nurse posts in England’s NHS alone.

Severely understaffed wards are not only causing extreme stress and burnout, says the RCN, but are impacting the safety of patients and the quality of the treatment they can receive. 

The RCN is seeking a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation to make up for what it calls a decade of real-terms pay cuts. With inflation currently at 11.1 per cent, this would be a 16.1 per cent pay rise. 

Only with higher pay will the sector be able to retain and attract new nurses, the union says, with two-thirds of nurses working in general practice thinking about leaving the profession within a year because of low pay.

Despite this year’s pay award, the RCN said experienced nurses are worse off by 20 per cent in real terms due to successive below-inflation pay awards dating back to 2010. In Scotland that figure is estimated to be 16 per cent.

Independent research commissioned by the RCN has shown the exchequer would recoup 81 per cent of the initial outlay of a significant pay rise in terms of higher tax receipts and savings on future recruitment and retention costs.

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What impact will a nurses strike have on health services?

When nurses strike there will be disruption to planned appointments and procedures, the RCN has said. This would likely lengthen backlogs and waiting lists. There would, however, be measures in place to ensure patient safety is not at risk.

Studies have shown that short-staffing, whether caused by strike action or workforce crisis, has a “profound effect on nurses’ ability to do their jobs, increases rates of medical error and leads to preventable patient deaths”.

There is a legal requirement on trade unions to make sure that strike action does not endanger human life or cause serious injury – it is a criminal offence to strike if there is a risk of this happening. 

Emergency treatment by nurses will always be maintained, the RCN has emphasised. A team will review minimal staffing levels at every health trust facing strike action to make sure there are always enough nurses working to maintain patient safety. 

If a major emergency were to happen requiring more nursing staff, nurses would be taken off picket lines and return to work, the RCN said. 

There are different ways of managing a nursing strike. Trusts may choose to implement a “Sunday service” or Christmas Day service or make certain essential services – such as intensive care – exempt from strike action. 

What have politicians said about the strikes?

Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: “Why on Earth is the health secretary refusing to negotiate with nurses? Patients already can’t get treated on time, strike action is the last thing they need, yet the government is letting this happen. Patients will never forgive the Conservatives for this negligence.

“First the government refused to speak to the health unions all summer, now they refuse to negotiate. If the Conservatives have given up governing, they should stand aside for Labour.”

Streeting added that there were no NHS strikes during the 13 years of the last Labour government and said his party would launch the biggest expansion of medical training in history to increase staff numbers.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said nurses going on. strike is “in nobody’s best interests” in an article for The Telegraph in mid November, calling the demands “neither reasonable no affordable”.

“All of us feel immensely grateful to our amazing NHS nurses. They care for us when we are at our most vulnerable, and show compassion and kindness each day,” he wrote.

“I want to continue the dialogue we started and explore how to find a way forward,” he added. “But the government cannot agree to unreasonable pay demands.”

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All the NHS trusts where nurses will go on strike

England

Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust

Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust

Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust

Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust

Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust

Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust

Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust

St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust

University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust

Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust

Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Found Trust

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Found Trust

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust

Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust

Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust

Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust

Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Found Trust

Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust

St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust

Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust

The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust

University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust

South East Coast Ambulance Service

Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

Solent NHS Trust

Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust

Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Devon Partnership NHS Trust

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Found Trust

Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

North Bristol NHS Trust

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust

Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust

Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust

Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust

Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust

Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust

Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust

The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust

Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trust

Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust

Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust

The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Sheffield Children’s NHS Trust

Wales

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board

Powys Teaching Local Health Board

Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust Headquarters

Hywel Dda University Health Board

Swansea Bay University Health Board

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board

Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board

Velindre NHS Trust

Northern Ireland

Practice and Education Council

Southern Health and Social Care Trust

Western Health and Social Care Trust

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

Business Services Organisation

Regulation & Quality Improvement Authority

Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service

Public Health Agency

Northern Health and Social Care Trust

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

Northern Ireland Ambulance Service

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