London hospitals to be hit by ‘new wave’ of NHS strikes in May, union says
orkers at London’s Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Trust will be among the first to walk out in fresh wave of NHS strikes in England, the Unite union has said.
Union members at the two south London hospitals and Yorkshire Ambulance Service plan to strike on May 1 after rejecting a government pay offer.
Industrial action is expected to be taken by frontline nurses, medical scientists and estates services staff among other NHS workers on the bank holiday.
It comes as official figures showed more than 22,000 Londoners waited over 12 hours to be seen in A&E in one month alone as doctors, nurses and paramedic strikes cause chaos for patients.
Nearly 200,000 hospital appointments and procedures in England had to be rescheduled due to the strike by junior doctors from April 11-15, NHS England revealed on Monday.
Members of the Unite union in England are still being balloted on an offer of a 5% increase this year and a cash sum for last year.
Voting ends on April 28, but the union said the known results so far show that its members in a large number of NHS trusts are voting to reject the offer, warning it will herald a wave of new strikes early in May.
The union claimed members at Guys and St Thomas’ Trust will “overwhelmingly reject” the offer as “totally inadequate”.
“They are also increasingly angry that the Government has blatantly failed to deliver its commitment to find new money to pay for its proposals rather than robbing other health budgets,” the union said on Monday.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing have rejected the offer and will strike for 48 hours from April 30, while Unison members voted to accept.
Unite put the Government pay offer to the ballot of its members without a recommendation to accept it. Unite was the only union directly involved in the negotiations to do this.
“Unite was not able to recommend the offer because the non-consolidated cash lump sum for 2022/23 is not a pay rise,” the union said.
“Also the five per cent increase for 2023/24 does not come anywhere near to matching inflation, currently at 13.8 per cent.
“Further, the UK government offer doesn’t even match the higher settlement approved by Unite members in Scotland.”
Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham said: “The new wave of strike action agreed today reflects the growing anger of our members about the total inadequacy of the current government proposals.
“If the new wave of strike action is to be avoided the government needs to return to the negotiations and put more money on the table; that includes the consolidation of the lump sum offer into wages as a starter.”
Ms Graham warned: “Unite is organising for more decisive strike action involving more and more of our members”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Following constructive discussions, all parties agreed the pay deal was a fair and reasonable offer which is demonstrated by Unison, representing the largest share of the NHS workforce, choosing to accept it.
“Thousands of Agenda for Change staff continue to vote in their unions’ pay consultations over the next two weeks and we hope this generous offer secures their support.
“Strikes are in no one’s best interest – least of all patients – and it would not be appropriate to pre-empt the results of the ballot by calling for further industrial action before the voting has closed.”
London’s Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Trust has been approached for comment.
The impact of strikes
As hospitals started trying to catch up on the delays caused by four days of industrial action by 47,000 junior doctors last week, the Royal College of Nursing issued a stark warning to ministers and health bosses that they had just two weeks to plan for its upcoming all-out strike.
But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak turned the spotlight onto the union, warning of the threat to patient care from a walk-out “without derogations” and after the Government’s pay offer was rejected by a “minority” of RCN members.
Amid the war of words, there are concerns over the impact on patients of the crisis in the NHS, with official data showing that one in 10 (11.7 per cent) people attending A&Es in the capital in February waited at least 12 hours before being admitted, transferred or discharged.
Nearly a third (31 per cent) of patients at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals faced at least a 12-hour wait, the highest of any NHS trust. This contrasted with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust in central London, where just 1.1 per cent of patients endured a wait of over 12 hours.