Entrance to Kings College Hospital

NHS strike London: nurses and ambulance staff take to picket lines

Multiple picket lines were set at hospitals across London today on the first day of the largest strike in NHS history.

Thousands of nurses from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and ambulance workers from the GMB and Unite unions placed picket lines in the first of many NHS strikes planned across February.

Comments from the Health Secretary

Health Secretary Steve Barclay visited Kingston Hospital today, stating that only a minority of trusts are on strike but that the strikes made a big impact on patients due to appointment cancellations.

He said: “We’ve seen the impact in terms of appointments and patient procedures: 80,000 or so appointments cancelled and 11,000 inpatient operations in terms of the strikes today.

“So there is an impact on patients.”

Barclay was not confident about an agreement between parties, referencing negotiations which have been ongoing since April.

He added: “I don’t think it’s right to go back to last year, back to April, retrospectively. We should be looking forward to the pay review body that is taking evidence now and working constructively with the trade unions.

“We want to work constructively with the trade unions in terms of this evidence, and that’s why we’ve been discussing these issues with them.”

Strong words from Unite’s general secretary

Barclay’s comments contrasted with Unite union general secretary Sharon Graham’s interview with BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg yesterday, as she claimed Barclay and Rishi Sunak were unwilling to talk.

She said: “I can tell you categorically that there have been no conversations on pay whatsoever with Rishi Sunak or Steve Barclay about this dispute, in any way shape or form.

“They’ve danced around their handbag, they danced around the edges but they will not talk about pay.”

More picket lines in the future?

This was the first time that both ambulance workers and nurses simultaneously took strikes, with the RCN set to repeat the action tomorrow.

The GMB will strike for a second time on the 20 of February, while Unite has multiple regional strikes from the 16 to the 24.

February has already seen strikes from school and university staff, as well as rail services last week, while NHS physios plan action on Thursday with more to come both this month and next.

Featured Image Credit: KiloCharlieLima via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 4.0 license

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