NHS bosses could go to court in a bid to stop the second day of a planned strike by tens of thousands of nurses. A letter from NHS Employers to the Royal College of Nursing said it received “clear legal advice” that could halt the May 2 walkout. NHS heads believe the RCN mandate to strike expires 20 hours before the walkout ends.
The 48-hour strike, from April 30 to May 2, comes after the union rejected a five per cent pay deal. It will hit A&E, cancer services and intensive care at 130 NHS bodies.
NHS Employers CEO, Daniel Mortimer, said: “The RCN ballot for industrial action ended at midday on 2nd November 2022 and allows the union six months to undertake any action approved by that ballot.
“NHS Employers has written to the RCN stating our view – on behalf of trusts in England, and with clear legal advice – that the RCN’s mandate for industrial action ends at midnight on Monday 1st May.
“We have therefore asked the RCN to amend its guidance regarding any action planned for Tuesday 2nd May 2023.”
The RCN insists the strike is lawful and has told the NHS it will “forcefully resist” attempts to seek a High Court injunction and seek legal costs if the bosses’ bid failed.
In a letter, the union said: “The law does not recognise part of a day and a day extends until its last moment, namely midnight.
“That being the position, I trust you agree that our strike action on 2 May 2023 until 8pm or the start of the night shift does have the support of the ballot and is lawful.”
RCN general secretary, Pat Cullen, said the union would “immediately” ballot members when the current mandate ran out.
She warned: “If that ballot is successful, it will mean further strike action right up until Christmas.”
The NHS Confederation urged the RCN to reconsider staffing critical services during the upcoming strike. And mental health chiefs warned of “dire consequences” to the safety of patients.
In December, the RCN agreed some derogations – areas of care where unions agree to provide staffing during industrial action. But it has said there will not be any this time.
Meanwhile, Downing Street again rejected medical chiefs’ calls for a conciliation service to broker talks between junior doctors
seeking a 35 percent catch-up pay rise and the Government.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said Health Secretary Steve Barclay would speak to the British Medical Association when it paused strike action and “moved away” from the starting position of 35 percent.
The BMA asked the Government last week to enter talks with arbitration body Acas to end the dispute.
Department of Health and Social Care permanent secretary, Sir Chris Wormald, told MPs yesterday third-party mediation was “not the Government’s preferred route”.
BMA council chairman, Professor Philip Banfield, said “there is no number set in stone” when it comes to a 35 per cent rise.
He said: “Do we have any pre-conditions? No, we don’t. This is all coming from the Government side who want to negotiate from a position where they have already decided what the answer is.”
Professor Dame Helen Stokes-Lampard, who chairs the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, urged both sides to show flexibility and return to the negotiating table.
She said: “We have the longest waiting lists in NHS history, for reasons we all understand – the pandemic compounded by over a decade of under-investment in our service – and we have a body of junior doctors who are hurting.
“They are angry, they are frustrated and they are burnt out, and they are leaving our profession in droves. They need looking after.”
Ambulance workers from the Unite union are to walk out alongside nurses and teachers on May 2.
Nearly 200,000 hospital appointments and procedures in England had to be rescheduled when tens of thousands of junior doctors staged a 96-hour strike in a dispute over pay between April 11 and 15.
Thousands of other appointments have been cancelled or delayed because of strikes by other unions, including the RCN.
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