Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed that the pay rise demands by the nursing union is “obviously unaffordable” as he hopes to find a solution to get out of the crisis. Nurses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are going on a two-day strike on December 15 and 20, the RCN announced on Friday.
Mr Sunak said that the demands by the RCN amounted to a 19 per cent or £10 billion pay rise.
The Prime Minister added that he has “enormous respect and gratitude” for nurses but told broadcasters: “What the unions are asking for, I think, is a 19 per cent pay rise.
“And I think most people watching will recognise that that’s obviously unaffordable, and that’s why I’m pleased that the Health Secretary is sitting down, talking to the union, and hopefully we can find a way through this.”
Earlier this month, the RCN announced that nursing staff at the majority of NHS employers across the UK had voted to take strike action over pay and patient safety.
They will still provide emergency care, but routine operations are set to be hit.
A spokesperson from RCN told express.co.uk: “Concerns for patient safety is also a central part of this dispute and on strike days we run a system called derogation to protect patient care.
“Urgent and emergency care will always be protected.”
The spokesperson further explained that derogations is an exemption provided to a member or service from taking part in industrial action.
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The RCN further stated that in the last year, 25,000 nursing staff around the UK left the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register. Poor pay contributes to staff shortages across the UK, affecting patient safety. There are 47,000 unfilled registered nurse posts in England’s NHS alone.
The council told express.co.uk that the decision on extending the strike will be taken “some in December and then others in January if we have to announce more dates.”