Nurses began a second day of consecutive strike action on Tuesday as a London hospital boss warned that industrial action has put its services under "significant pressure".
Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) walked out in seven London trusts from 7.30am in a bitter pay dispute as a union official accused ministers of "being on strike themselves".
Ambulance workers from GMB and Unite walked out alongside nurses in around a third of England's NHS trusts on Monday in the most significant week of industrial action in the history of the health service. Physiotherapists will strike on Thursday while Unison members of the London Ambulance Service (LAS) will walk out on Friday.
NHS Nurses and Ambulance Strike | Monday 6th February 2023
RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen said: “It is clearer than ever that the Prime Minister has failed to deliver on his promises to the NHS.
“Rishi Sunak is letting the country’s most important and beloved institution deteriorate rapidly – but it is not too late. I am urging him to come to the table to negotiate and halt this action now.”
The RCN have demanded a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation but have indicated they would be prepared to settle for a lower figure, while other health unions have demanded a rise that at least matches inflation.
Claire Hook, chief operating officer at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said the trust's hospitals had "regrettably had to postpone many of our other appointments and planned care" during Monday’s strike action.
“We are under significant pressure right now, particularly in our emergency departments, following a very busy weekend and due to difficulties today discharging patients who are ready to leave hospital. Everyone is working incredibly hard to resolve this challenging situation.
“It’s important that people who need urgent care continue to come forward and that patients with planned appointments attend as normal, unless they've been contacted by us.”
The RCN in Wales on Friday called off planned strikes for this week after receiving a pay offer from the Welsh Government. Industrial action has already been postponed in Scotland while union officials hold pay talks with Holyrood.
Health minister Will Quince, answering an urgent question from Labour on Monday, said around 88,000 procedures or outpatient appointments have been postponed because of strikes over the last eight weeks.
But Ms Cullen accused the Government of being “on strike itself”, claiming that Mr Sunak and Health Secretary Steve Barclay were “missing in action”.
“No Health Secretary and no Business Secretary were there to answer urgent questions in Parliament on Monday – and no response from the Prime Minister after I wrote to him this weekend.
“People may wonder if the Government is also on strike.
“In Parliament on Monday, we heard more of the same from a Government whose most senior figures seem to be missing in action.
“The Westminster Government is punishing England’s nurses and looking increasingly isolated as the Welsh and Scottish governments come to the table.”
Speaking on a visit to Kingston Hospital on Monday, Health Secretary Steve Barclay appeared to rule out negotiations for a pay rise for the 2022/23 period.
“I don’t think it’s right to go back to last year, to last April, retrospectively. We should be looking forward to the pay review body that is taking evidence now and working constructively with the trade unions.”