Sunak, MPs reject pay rise proposal amid nation-wide NHS walkouts
The RCN is requesting a 19% pay rise - 5% over the RPI inflation rate - which the UK government called "unaffordable."
In light of a country-wide strike across England and Wales, thousands of ambulance workers took to the streets following suit of the National Health Service nurses who protested last week after ministers rejected the proposal by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to negotiate pay raises.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insists that demanding a pay raise will worsen the already-devastating inflation, adding that the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) has also considered future inflation.
During his appearance at the House of Commons liaison committee, Sunak stated: "I’ve acknowledged it is difficult, it’s difficult for everybody because inflation is where it is. And the best way to help them and help everyone else in the country is for us to get a grip and reduce inflation as quickly as possible."
But Sunak then seemed to imply that it may be possible to reconsider the matter later, that "there will be a body and a process for next year. The door is always open to talk to everybody to be constructive about how we approach these things in the future.”
'Entered dangerous territory'
Discussions held between Health Secretary Steve Barclay and the health unions with Unite proved to be fruitless, the second largest trade union in the UK describing the talks as “pointless.”
"Deeply regrettable," is how Barclay described the strikes after stating that a majority of ambulance staff received a pay increase of 4%, which boosted average earnings to £47,000.
This affects patients' conditions as well. Those with life-threatening situations, such as cardiac arrest classified as category 1, will be responded to immediately, but those pertaining to category 2, suffering from critical conditions might not be tended to.
In a letter, head of the NHS confederation, Matthew Taylor, was cited as warning Sunak: "It is clear that we have entered dangerous territory and we hope this warning from NHS leaders should serve to focus minds in government and in the unions that a swift resolution to this damaging dispute is needed."
According to the NHS Confederation, "deep worry among NHS leaders about the level of harm and risk that could occur to patients tomorrow and beyond," was present as "many now tell us that they cannot guarantee patient safety".
The RCN is requesting a 19% pay rise - 5% over the RPI inflation rate - which the UK government called "unaffordable", despite its continued support for sending millions worth of weapons to Ukraine.
Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary and chief executive, expressed she was "truly sorry" for patients facing medical disruptions from the strikes. Cullen clarified her willingness to negotiate terms, but added that "we have no opportunity to do that because we can't get to a table to talk to government."
Amid warnings that disruptive walkouts could continue in the New Year, the UK Labour party slammed No10's response to the strikes, with shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth saying:
"The buck stops with Rishi Sunak and his Government. They're the ones who can stop these strikes by engaging in a meaningful negotiation about what is a fair settlement for NHS staff."