New NHS strikes announced after nurses pause action to join talks | The Sun

NHS workers have announced another strike date in a fresh blow to the Government as it negotiates with nurses.

In a move that could pour cold water over hopes for a breakthrough in the industrial action crippling the NHS, Unison said its members will take action again on March 8.

Unison's new strike date will include paramedics, blood collection workers, healthcare assistant, cleaners, porters — and even some nurses.

Ambulance workers at Unite had already planned strikes for March 6 and March 20.

Junior doctors on Monday announced they would also be taking action for three days next month.

RCN nurses yesterday said they would halt strike plans next week while they hold pay discussions with Steve Barclay today.

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But bosses at Unison and Unite — who represent thousands of ambulance workers and other NHS staff — hit out at No10 for not also inviting them to the table.

It comes after hospital chiefs warned worsening strikes would threaten to derail No10’s plans to clear the backlog.

Announcing the new dates this afternoon, Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: "Unfortunately for patients, staff and anyone that cares about the NHS, the strikes go on.

"There can be no pick-and-mix solution. NHS workers in five unions are involved in strike action over pay, staffing and patient care.

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"Choosing to speak to one union and not others won't stop the strikes and could make a bad situation much worse."

She added: "By holding solo talks, the prime minister is condemning patients to many more months of disruption."

Meanwhile, Downing Street declined to comment on the fresh talks with the RCN, stressing it was right that talks took place "privately".

No10 said that it wanted a deal that is "fair" for all taxpayers.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We are now in a period of discussion that start today and will continue in the coming days, so I won't be commenting on the detail of those discussions while they are taking place.

"We want to secure a deal that is fair for all taxpayers. That is our ambition. In the first instance, we haven't had the first meeting yet, so we will let that happen."

No10 declined to get into any details of the talks.

The spokesperson said: "I think given there are discussions, we are not going to get into what is on the table.

"We think it is right to allow these talks to take place privately, as I believe does the RCN."

Speaking before Unison’s announcement, RCN general secretary Pat Cullen yesterday said she was "confident" about reaching an agreement over pay for nurses.

She told Sky News: "Very pleased to say that the Government has agreed to enter into a period of intensive talks with the Royal College of Nursing.

"I'm confident that we will be able to reach agreement about a fair pay deal for our nursing staff.

"The finer detail has to be worked out but I'm very assured by the Prime Minister's intervention, and we certainly will, as we've always said, put our plans on the table.

"They can put their plans on the table but I'm confident that we will come out with a fair pay settlement for our nursing staff."

Ms Cullen added: "I'm entering this in good faith, I think this is a significant step forward, every nurse in England today can breathe a sigh of relief and, more importantly, our patients can.

"So, let's get round the table tomorrow, I'm very confident with the move from Government and certainly we will do our very best to make sure that a fair pay deal is obtained for all of our nursing."

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN)had planned strikes for 48 hours from March 1 .

The union said the talks will focus on pay, with both sides “committed to finding a fair and reasonable settlement”.

The Department of Health confirmed the talks will focus on pay, “terms and conditions, and productivity enhancing reforms”.

The RCN originally demanded a rise equal to 19 per cent but have indicated they will settle for less.

Tens of thousands more appointments and operations faced being postponed in March, with around 150,000 hit by strikes already.

Nick Hulme, chief of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Trust, said further strikes will have a “significant impact on already worryingly high waiting times”.

There are 7.2million people on NHS waiting lists in England and many face waiting months for treatment.

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Junior doctors are demanding a 26 per cent pay rise, which Health Minister Maria Caulfield has slammed as “unrealistic”, adding strikes will “put patients at risk”.

Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, admitted the strikes may “disrupt emergency care and pose a risk for patient safety”.

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