Who’s on strike today and how will it affect you? Daily update for December 15

Tens of thousands of nursing staff across England, Wales and Northern Ireland will take part in their biggest ever strike today amid a long-running dispute over pay and working conditions.

It is the first time in the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) 106-year history that members have walked out.

With thousands of appointments and operations expected to be cancelled, health leaders called on the union to do more to ‘avoid patient harm’ and ‘alleviate unnecessary distress’ for dying patients.

The RCN insisted ‘the safety of patients is everybody’s top concern’, and said it will still staff chemotherapy, emergency cancer services, dialysis, critical care units, neonatal and paediatric intensive care.

Some areas of mental health and learning disability and autism services are also exempt, while trusts have been told they can request staffing for specific clinical needs.

When it comes to adult A&E and urgent care, nurses will work Christmas Day-style rotas.

Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, said NHS trusts were ‘pulling out all the stops’ to lessen the impact on patients.

She went on: ‘The picture will vary across the country as trust leaders work out service levels with unions locally.

‘But it’s inevitable that some operations or appointments will have to be rescheduled and trusts are pulling out all the stops to minimise disruption.

‘The cold snap has ramped up demand that was already at or close to record levels, but on strike day NHS trusts will do everything they can to ensure that essential services are properly staffed and patient safety, always the number one priority, is safeguarded.’



Elsewhere, Royal Mail workers are on the second of their two-day strike, while DVSA driving examiners and staff in the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) continue their walkout.

Commuters are also likely to face difficulties getting into work in the wake of a 48-hour walkout by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at Network Rail and 14 train operators.

Meanwhile, another rail union has announced fresh strikes at two train operators in the days after Christmas.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) said around 700 of its members at West Midlands Trains (WMT) and Great Western Railway (GWR) will walk out in an ongoing dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

The strike at GWR takes place for 24 hours from noon on Wednesday December 28 and at WMT for 24 hours from noon on Wednesday December 28.

In the case of WMT, this cancels and replaces a previously planned strike on December 17.

Action short of a strike will be held until early January at both companies.

Figures released this week show the number of working days lost to strike action hit the highest in more than a decade in October.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that 417,000 working days were lost to labour disputes in October – the highest monthly level since November 2011.

The toll is set to surge as industrial action ramps up, with this week marking the start of a month-long wave of strikes across the public sector.

Strike dates from now until February

Services ranging from postal deliveries to health services are to be hit by strikes from now going into February.

Here are some of the strikes planned:

– December 15

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will go on strike.

Royal Mail workers to strike again.

The DVSA strike continues for staff in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Staff in the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) continue their walkout.

– December 16

RMT rail workers to stage another 48-hour national strike.

The union will also see members working as security guards on Eurostar staging a 24-hour strike.

TSSA members who work for Avanti West Coast to stage another 48-hour walkout.

Ground handlers employed by private contractor Menzies at Heathrow Airport, who are members of Unite, will walk out from 4am for 72 hours.

Bus workers with Abellio in London will continue their strike.

The DVSA strike continues for staff in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

PCS road strikes to begin with National Highways employees walking out in the North West, North East and Yorkshire.

RPA staff continue their walkout.

Unison workers at the Environment Agency refuse to provide ‘on call’ cover for unexpected incidents.

– December 17

TSSA members who work for c2c to walk out.

Rail workers with the same union at Avanti West Coast will continue their strike.

The DVSA strike continues for staff in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

National Highways workers continue their walkout in the North West, North East and Yorkshire.

The RMT rail workers’ walkout continues.

Unite ground handlers at Heathrow continue their strike.

– December 18

RMT members working as security guards on Eurostar to stage another walkout.

Unite ground handlers at Heathrow continue their strike.

The DVSA strike continues for staff in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

A man walks near a sign with strike-disruption information at London Bridge station (Picture: Reuters)

– December 19

Staff working at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) start strike action. More than 200 PCS members in three DWP offices in Liverpool and one in Doncaster will walk out on dates from December 19 to 31 – although it is unclear which dates.

Unite members working for Highlands and Islands Airports will strike, affecting 11 small hubs in Scotland.

DVSA driving examiners to strike in the North West, Yorkshire and Humber and North Wales.

RPA staff resume their walkout.

– December 20

RCN members will stage another nurses’ strike.

The DVSA strike continues in the North West, Yorkshire and Humber and North Wales.

RPA staff continue their walkout.

Unison workers at the Environment Agency refuse to provide ‘on call’ cover for unexpected incidents.

– December 21

Ambulance workers and other NHS staff will stage a strike in England co-ordinated by the GMB, Unison and Unite. Scottish members of Unison and Unite reached an agreement and called off their action.

The DVSA strike continues in the North West, Yorkshire and Humber and North Wales.

RPA staff continue their walkout.

– December 22

Railway cleaners across the country with the RMT union to launch a strike.

National Highways workers begin a walkout in London and the South East.

Unite members working for Highlands and Islands Airports will stage another strike.

RMT Eurostar security staff to stage another walkout.

The DVSA strike continues in the North West, Yorkshire and Humber and North Wales.

RPA staff continue their walkout.

Unison workers at the Environment Agency refuse to provide ‘on call’ cover for unexpected incidents.

– December 23

Royal Mail workers will walk out in another day of national strike action.

The RMT railway cleaners’ national strike continues.

RMT Eurostar security staff to stage another walkout.

The National Highways workers’ strike continues in London and the South East.

The DVSA strike continues in the North West, Yorkshire and Humber and North Wales.

PCS members in Border Force start a wave of strikes, including December 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30 and 31.

– December 24

RMT railway workers will stage another strike from 6pm on Christmas Eve.

Royal Mail workers to continue national strike action.

The DVSA strike continues in the North West, Yorkshire and Humber and North Wales.

Unison staff at Environment Agency refuse to volunteer attend incidents.

– December 25

The RMT rail strike will continue, although no train services run on Christmas Day.

Unison staff at Environment Agency refuse to volunteer to attend incidents.

– December 26

The RMT rail strike will continue, meaning limited Boxing Day services are likely to be cancelled.

Unison staff at Environment Agency refuse to volunteer to attend incidents until 9am.

– December 27

The RMT rail strike continues until 6am.

– December 28

NHS staff in the GMB union will stage another strike.

The DVSA driving examiners’ strikes will start in the West Midlands, the Eastern region and the East Midlands

– December 29

The DVSA strike continues in the West Midlands, Eastern region and East Midlands.

– December 30

Road strikes by National Highways’ employees will begin in the West Midlands and South West.

The DVSA strike continues in the West Midlands, Eastern region and East Midlands.

– December 31

RMT railway cleaners will stage another strike.

Road strikes by National Highways employees will begin in the West Midlands and South West.

Unison staff at Environment Agency refuse to volunteer to attend incidents.

– January 1

National Highways workers to stage two-day action in all areas of the country.

The DVSA strike continues in the West Midlands, Eastern region and East Midlands.

Unison staff at Environment Agency refuse to volunteer to attend incidents.

– January 2

Unison staff at Environment Agency refuse to volunteer attend incidents until 9am.

– January 3

RPA staff will resume their walkout.

– January 4

The DVSA driving examiners’ strike starts in London, the South East, South Wales and the South West.

The RMT rail workers’ strike continues.

UK-wide National Highways strike continues.

RPA staff will continue their walkout.

– January 5

The DVSA strike continues in London, South East, South Wales and South West.

RPA staff continue their walkout.

– January 6

RMT rail workers will stage another 48-hour strike.

National Highways workers to stage a two-day action in the East Midlands and eastern England.

The DVSA strike continues in London, South East, South Wales and South West.

RPA staff to continue their walkout.

– January 7

The RMT rail workers’ walkout continues.

National Highways workers will continue their strike in the East Midlands and eastern England.

The DVSA strike continues in London, South East, South Wales and South West.

– January 8

The DVSA strike continues in London, South East, South Wales and South West.

– January 9

The DVSA strike continues in London, South East, South Wales and South West.

RPA staff continue their walkout.

– January 10

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teachers’ union will stage a national strike in primary schools, special schools and early years sites.

The DVSA strike continues in London, South East, South Wales and South West.

RPA staff continue their walkout.

– January 11

EIS, joined by the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, will stage another national strike, in secondary schools and secondary special schools.

RPA staff will continue their walkout.

– January 12

RPA staff continue their walkout.

– January 13

RPA staff continue their walkout.

– January 16

EIS to stage a national strike for 16 consecutive days until February 2, which will see members in two local authorities strike each day.

RCN chief executive Pat Cullen said: ‘Nurses are not relishing this, we are acting with a very heavy heart.

‘It has been a difficult decision taken by hundreds of thousands who begin to remove their labour in a bid to be heard, recognised and valued.

‘It is a tragic first for nursing, the RCN and the NHS. Nursing staff on picket lines is a sign of failure on the part of governments.

‘Our commitment to patients and safe care means that vital services are kept running.

‘The scaremongering we have seen did upset some but also demonstrated the disrespect afforded to nurses for raising their voice.

‘My plea to patients is to know that this strike is for you too – it’s about waiting lists, treatments that are cancelled year round and the very future of the NHS.’

Ms Cullen also said ‘nothing at all’ had been done on Wednesday to avert the looming strike, telling BBC Newsnight: ‘The Government has turned their back on us.’

The RCN has also raised the issue of huge staff vacancies in the NHS, with 47,000 nurse vacancies in England alone.


Health Secretary Steve Barclay said nurses were ‘incredibly dedicated to their job’ and ‘it is deeply regrettable some union members are going ahead with strike action’.

He added: ‘My number one priority is to keep patients safe – I’ve been working across government and with medics outside the public sector to ensure safe staffing levels – but I do remain concerned about the risk that strikes pose to patients.

‘Nevertheless, the NHS is open and patients should continue to seek urgent medical care – and attend appointments – unless they’ve been contacted by the NHS.’

He said paying nurses more ‘would mean taking money away from frontline services at a time when we are tackling record waiting lists as a result of the pandemic’.

But pressure is mounting on the Government find a compromise on pay, with former Conservative Party chairman Sir Jake Berry saying it ‘is going to have to improve its offer’.

‘We need to find a way as a Government, and the union does too, to get to that centre point, that point of agreement straight away,’ he told Talk TV.

Your questions answered about striking nurses

Nurses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are to stage the first national walkout on Thursday.

– Why are nurses striking?

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) balloted its members over industrial action in a dispute over pay.

It has argued that low pay is driving ‘chronic understaffing’ which puts patients at risk and leaves nursing staff overworked, underpaid and undervalued.

– Is there really a crisis in the workforce?

The number of nurses and midwives registered to work in the UK has grown to a record level – some 771,445 were on the Nursing and Midwifery Council register in September.

But separate figures from NHS Digital show there were a record 47,496 full-time equivalent nursing vacancies in England at the end of September, representing a vacancy rate of 11.9%.

– How many nurses will be on strike?

Tens of thousands of nurses are to take part in the walk out – originally it was anticipated that up to 100,000 would strike but this figure changed due to the various ‘derogations’ which have occurred in recent weeks where nurses have agreed to provide certain services during strike days.

– When will the strikes take place?

The strikes are scheduled for Thursday December 15 and Tuesday December 20, although not all organisations taking part are participating on both days.

– What happens if I’m sick?

People who need emergency or urgent care will still get help. The strikes will affect other elements of care but people will have been contacted in advance to be told of changes to pre-planned care and encouraged to attend appointments unless they have been instructed otherwise. GP surgeries and pharmacies will be running as normal.

– What has the Royal College of Nursing asked for?

The Royal College of Nursing asked for a 12.5% uplift in pay in 2020. Somewhere during the dispute it was claimed that nurses wanted a ‘5% above inflation rise’ – presumably when inflation was 7.5% or thereabouts.

– So what has been offered?

The independent Pay Review Body recommended that the majority of NHS staff on the so-called Agenda for Change contracts are to be given a £1,400 uplift in pay.

The Nuffield Trust has estimated that this is the equivalent to an average of 4.3% rise for qualified nurses.

The RCN has previously said that despite this year’s pay award, experienced nurses are worse off by 20% in real terms due to successive below-inflation awards since 2010.

– What has the Government said?

The Government accepted the recommendation by the pay review body.

And it has said that union demands are ‘not affordable’ in the current economic climate, pointing out that each additional 1% pay rise for all staff on the Agenda for Change contract would cost around £700 million a year.

Although the Pay Review Body estimates that each 1% increase in pay adds around £500.5 million to the Agenda for Change pay bill in England, £29.5 million in Northern Ireland and £37.5 million in Wales.

The Department of Health and Social Care said that using October’s RPI inflation data, a 5% above inflation rise would equate to a pay rise of 19.2%.

It said that uplifting pay for all staff on the Agenda for Change contract – which also includes staff such as midwives, ambulance workers, porters and cleaners – by 19.2%, instead of the existing pay award, would cost ‘around an additional £10 billion’.

Officials have said that this would hamper the NHS’s efforts in tackling the record backlog of care.

But the RCN has not specifically asked for a 19.2% pay uplift.

A separate pay offer has been made in Scotland.

– What has the NHS said:

Officials in England have said that they would like to see a resolution to the dispute as soon as possible ‘but pay is a matter for the Government and the trade unions’.

– Where will the strikes take place?

Not every hospital will be affected by strike action. Here is the official list of trusts and NHS organisations taking part, released by the RCN.

England

East Midlands

Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICB

Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Eastern

Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust

Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust

Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust

NHS Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB

Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

London

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust

Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

NHS North Central London ICB

Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

North West

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Found Trust

Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust

The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Found Trust

The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust

Northern

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

South East

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust

South West

Devon Partnership NHS Trust

Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire ICB (BSW Together)

NHS Devon ICB (One Devon)

NHS Gloucestershire ICB (One Gloucestershire)

North Bristol NHS Trust

Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust

West Midlands

Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust

NHS Birmingham and Solihull ICB (BSol ICB)

The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust

Yorkshire & Humber

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust

The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

National employers

Health Education England

NHS England

Northern Ireland

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

Northern Health and Social Care Trust

Western Health and Social Care Trust

Southern Health and Social Care Trust

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council

Business Services Organisation

Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority

Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service

Public Health Agency

Northern Ireland Ambulance Service

Wales

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board

Powys Teaching Local Health Board

Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust Headquarters

Hywel Dda University Health Board

Swansea Bay University Health Board

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board

Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board

Velindre NHS Trust

Public Health Wales

Health Education and Improvement Wales Health Authority

NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership

Digital Health and Care Wales

During the strike, nurses will man picket lines at major NHS hospitals, including Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust in London, Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

Several trusts have already given details of cancelled outpatient appointments and planned treatments.

The Western Trust in Northern Ireland said it had ‘regrettably taken the decision to cancel some non-emergency services’, with 587 outpatient appointments postponed across Altnagelvin Hospital, Omagh Primary Care and Treatment Centre and South West Acute Hospital.

Some eight planned inpatient and day case procedures have also been cancelled.

The trust said there would also be reduced staffing in community nursing services including rapid response nursing, district nursing, community respiratory nursing and continence services.

In Wales, the Welsh Government said non-urgent or routine appointments are likely to be postponed.

Meanwhile, the Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust, the only specialist hospital trust in the UK dedicated to neurology, neurosurgery, spinal and pain management services, said outpatients and some elective treatments have been postponed or cancelled, but other patients should attend as normal.

Kettering General Hospital said it will be ‘stepping down some planned services and those patients affected will be contacted directly by our hospital’.

On Wednesday, the head of NHS Employers said ‘real concerns’ remain about the level of cover nurses will provide for cancer patients during the strike.

In a letter to NHS leaders, Danny Mortimer said some aspects of talks with the RCN had been disappointing and warned that ‘unless the Government indicates a willingness to negotiate on pay-related matters, further strike dates will be announced by the RCN for January 2023 and beyond’.

A second RCN nurse strike is set for December 20, while thousands of ambulance workers will go on strike on December 21.

The RCN has urged agency workers not to cover for striking staff.

Elsewhere, midwives and maternity support workers in Wales have voted to strike, though the ballot in England did not meet the legal turnout threshold.

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