Nurses leaders have issued a direct appeal to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to intervene in their pay dispute.
As the NHS faces its biggest day of industrial action in history, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary Pat Cullen said that a “meaningful” pay offer from the government could still avert striking.
In a letter to the PM she drew comparison to the swift sacking of Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi, after he was found to breached the ministerial code in relation to his tax affairs.
“Big decisions can be made by you at any point in the week in the interests of good government,” she said, urging Mr Sunak to show his government is on the side of the “hardworking, decent taxpayer”.
“There could be no simpler way to demonstrate this commitment than bringing the nurses strike to a swift close.”
On both Monday 6, and Tuesday 7, nurses are set to strike, with ambulance crews and call handlers joining them on the first day and returning to the picket lines on Friday.
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Health Secretary Steve Barclay called the industrial action “regrettable” and despite contingency plans, said that the strikes will “undoubtedly have an impact on patients and cause delays to NHS services”.
He said: “We accepted the recommendations of the independent pay review body to give over one million NHS workers, including nurses and ambulance workers, a pay rise of at least £1,400 this financial year, on top of an increase the previous year when wider public sector pay was frozen.
“I have been having constructive talks with unions about what is affordable for 2023/24, and urge them to call off the strikes and come back around the table.”
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Ms Cullen warned Mr Sunak that his government was becoming “increasingly isolated” as tens of thousands are losing wages.
“It must not be in vain,” she said. “It will be the biggest day of industrial action in the 75-year history of the NHS.
“Nursing staff find that a sobering realisation of how far they have been pushed to protect patient care and secure some respect for the nursing profession.”
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The RCN and other unions have called off strikes in Wales after receiving a new pay offer from the government.
Negotiations in Scotland are ongoing.