Unions warn of NHS strikes

Job cuts in the NHS could spark industrial action, union leaders will warn the government today.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis will tell its health workers’ conference that the union will support members who feel they have no option but to strike.

“We are being told that somehow jobs will be ‘disappeared’ or left unfilled without patients and staff feeling the pain. What utter nonsense.

“Unison cannot stand by and watch staff suffer in this climate of fear. We will be supporting members who feel that they have no option left other than industrial action to protect jobs and services,” he will say.

The Royal College of Nursing will say at its annual conference that 13,000 jobs could be lost to claw back a £600m deficit in NHS budgets across England.

RCN general secretary Beverley Malone accused the government of knee-jerk reactions over the deficit and of rushing headlong into reforms.

“Redundancy seems to be the first step, and it feels as if it is a knee-jerk response: it is not about long-term planning, but about short-term reaction.”

In her conference speech, she will warn the government to start listening and stop treating nurses “like overheads to be cut”.

But health secretary Patricia Hewitt insists that the NHS is doing better than ever before. She is set to address the Unison conference in Gateshead later on Monday, where a rally against the job losses and privatisation will be held. She will speak to nurses on Wednesday.

Hewitt will admit that the NHS is facing a “pivotal year” of great challenge, but will insist that the number of redundancies will be small and they will only occur in the areas with the worst financial problems.


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