The threat of nurse strike action continues to grow as the Royal College of Nursing is left disappointed by the health secretary’s latest comments on pay.
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay appeared on BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme yesterday and claimed his door remained open for discussions with unions on NHS pay.
“We need ministers to be bold and adopt a radical new position with serious investment in nursing, including fair pay”
He also repeated that the government had acted in line with the recommendations of the NHS Pay Review Body for the £1,400 pay deal awarded to Agenda for Change staff in England.
Mr Barclay said ministers “hugely value the work that nurses do” and that he recognised the “severe pressure” the NHS was under.
It is “important” that he and unions “continue talking”, he noted in regard to potential strike action. “That is why my door is open,” he added.
The health secretary said the current situation was not just about pay, and pointed to issues such as estates and technology.
It was revealed earlier this month that thousands of nurse members of the RCN had voted for strike action across the majority of NHS employers in the UK.
Responding to the health secretary’s latest comments, RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said his “lack of intention and inability to see the urgency of this situation will trouble every nurse”.
Last week the RCN gave Mr Barclay a five-day ultimatum to open “formal, detailed negotiations” on pay and patient safety or strike dates would be drawn up.
Speaking on Sunday, Ms Cullen said Mr Barclay had shown “no signs” of launching proper pay talks.
She added: “This is a key week for health and care.
“We need ministers to be bold and adopt a radical new position with serious investment in nursing, including fair pay.”
On Friday, the RCN announced that strike plans in Scotland would be put on pause amid new formal pay talks between the government and unions.
Ms Cullen reiterated that unless Mr Barclay followed suit, the college would “announce strike dates in December for the rest of the UK”.