‘Unaffordable’ pay hikes for NHS staff will mean cutting patient care, the health secretary has said, as the BMA has given support to the further strikes announced by healthcare workers.
In a piece published in the Independent this morning, Steve Barclay said he wants a ‘constructive’ dialogue with union leaders, but that nurses intending to walk out should be in no doubt of the cost of the strikes for patients and the economy.
It comes as nurses announced further strike action for next month in England and Wales, in addition to the walk-outs planned for today (18 January).
The BMA has said it supports nurses who have experienced ‘brutal cuts’ alongside the rest of health care workers.
England’s junior doctors will strike for 72 hours in March should last week’s ballot be successful, while ambulance workers have further strikes planned.
But Mr Barclay said that pay rises to NHS staff will ‘take billions of pounds away from where we need the most.’
He said: ‘I know we can find a fair way to resolve this. I want to continue the constructive dialogue with union leaders about how to make the NHS a better place to work and deliver better care for patients.
‘I want to work with the unions to identify areas where the NHS can become more efficient. That could both relieve administrative burdens on staff and unlock additional funding to top up affordable pay rises for the coming financial year.’
The BMA has expressed solidarity with nurses who ‘feel they have been left with no choice but to take strike action in the fight for fair pay and safe staffing.’
A spokesperson for the union said: ‘Like doctors and other health and care staff, nurses across the UK over the last decade have experienced brutal cuts in their pay, while being asked to do more in an understaffed and under resourced system.
‘Our nursing colleagues have said enough is enough and record numbers have now voted to take strike action in their fight for fair pay and safe staffing.
‘Doctors across the UK stand in solidarity and we offer our support with our colleagues who felt they had no other choice but to strike.
‘It is now time that the governments across the UK listen to what healthcare staff are telling them about the working conditions in the NHS and take action.’
Meanwhile, the BMA also said that GP trainees will not be barred from protesting during potential upcoming junior doctor strikes, but will only be able to join a picket line at or close to the hospital they are currently working in.
Last week, Mr Barclay confirmed steps the Government is taking to ensure the NHS has the support it needs to tackle ‘increased pressures’ and gave updates on the Government’s plans to provide up to £250m to speed up getting patients out of hospital.