Nursing union the Royal College of Nursing has suspended strike action next week after health secretary Stephen Barclay said he would meet for “intensive talks” with its leaders.
The RCN had planned for nurses to walk out from 1 to 3 of March next week, an action that would be the biggest strike of this winter’s pay dispute. Around half of frontline services were expected to be affected.
In a joint statement, the Department of Health and Social Care and the RCN said: “The government and Royal College of Nursing have agreed to enter a process of intensive talks.
“Both sides are committed to finding a fair and reasonable settlement that recognises the vital role that nurses and nursing play in the National Health Service and the wider economic pressures facing the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister’s priority to halve inflation. The talks will focus on pay, terms and conditions, and productivity enhancing reforms.”
Health unions said they would not submit evidence to the NHS pay review body for the 2023-24 pay round while their issues around this year’s pay round were not resolved. Ministers have so far refused to up the offer for 2022-23 of 4.75% on average.
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The RCN had originally asked for a 19% pay rise to reflect inflation of above 10% and years of real-terms pay cuts, and at one point said it would meet the government halfway.
News of fresh negotiations comes as the government has confirmed it will recommend a 3.5% pay offer across the public sector. This would include judges, police officers, teachers, doctors and dentists.
These recommendations now go to independent pay review bodies and government departments have submitted their evidence for the 2023-24 financial year.
The GMB union called the pay offer a “disgrace” that would do nothing to prevent further industrial action.
Elsewhere in the health service, junior doctors yesterday voted to stage a 72-hour strike in March, and ambulance staff in Wales and the north west will strike today.
Scottish nurses were offered a 6.5% average salary rise from April and a one-off payment as part of an NHS-wide offer to workers. Unions have agreed to put strike action on hold while negotiations on the 2023 offer take place.
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