The Daily Telegraph
Nurses in Wales accept 7.5pc pay rise
Union says Prime Minister has ‘no place left to hide’ in England after Senedd increases award
NURSES in Wales have called off next week’s strikes after being offered a 7.5 per cent pay rise for this year by the Welsh government.
The biggest NHS strike in history was due to take place on Monday as staff walked out over pay in England and Wales. Nurses, ambulance workers and physios will go on strike every day next week in England, except Wednesday, as Westminster refused to move on pay.
However, health unions, including the GMB, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said yesterday that the action would be suspended in Wales after its Labour government increased NHS workers’ pay offer for this financial year.
The Welsh government’s move prompted Pat Cullen, the RCN general secretary, to say Rishi Sunak had “no place left to hide” on pay in England.
The Welsh Government has offered an additional 3 per cent for 2022-23, of which 1.5 per cent will be given as a one-off payment. It did not confirm how much the award would cost.
The remaining 1.5 per cent will be consolidated, added to the 4.5 per cent award imposed for 2022-23 and backdated to April last year.
The RCN had called for a pay rise 5 per cent above inflation, taking its demands to around 19.2 per cent. Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, said at the time its request was “not affordable” and would cost the country £10billion a year. On that basis, a 7.5 per cent increase for NHS workers in England would cost £3.9billion.
It comes as the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations, said the health service would struggle to clear the backlog and improve services unless strikes are ended, adding that the Government needed to “show initiative” to end the dispute or risk lengthening queues for treatment.
Figures suggest the number of cancelled NHS operations and appointments has risen to more than 88,000.
The strikes may also deter patients from accessing healthcare, storing up problems for the future, the NHS Confederation said.
NHS England urged patients to seek urgent care if they needed it during strikes and to attend appointments as planned, unless told otherwise. Sir Stephen Powis, the NHS’S medical director, said: “Next week is likely to be the most disruptive week of strikes to date and while local services have worked hard to minimise the impact for patients, the scale of the action means increased disruption is inevitable.”
The RCN will escalate its campaign in England next week, with strikes at 73 NHS trusts, compared with 44 in December and 55 in January. Ambulance staff will also walk out.
The additional 3 per cent offer in Wales will be put to RCN members “within days”, the union said.
“If the other governments can negotiate and find more money for this year, the Prime Minister can do the same. Rishi Sunak has no place left to hide,” Ms Cullen said yesterday.
“His unwillingness to help nursing is being exposed as a personal choice, not an economic necessity.” It comes after
Mr Sunak said on Thursday that he would “love” to give nurses a pay rise. During a Talktv interview he said giving nurses a pay increase would “make my life easier”, but stressed the need to bring down inflation.
Julie Richards, RCM director for Wales, said the offer was thanks to the “determination of our members to make their voices heard and their readiness to take action”.
Nathan Holman, a GMB official, said: “We recognise that the Welsh government and Welsh Ambulance have made concessions and, through social partnership, we appreciate the frank and open dialogue with them over the last few months.
“This has only been made possible because the Welsh government has been prepared to talk about pay – a lesson for those in charge on the other side of the Severn Bridge.”