May 22, 2023

NHS Strikes : Government Makes New Payment Offer

The government reached a new pay settlement with NHS staff unions representing over a million health workers who accepted the deal on May 2. The deal which was first put forward in March will see staff get a 5% increase in wages including a one-off sum of at least £1,655. The offer does cover all NHS agenda for change staff in England but does not include doctors.

Although 11 NHS unions have backed the deal, the Royal College of Nursing and two other unions rejected the offer and have threatened to embark on more strikes. The RCN union in England rejected the government's new pay offer and held a 24-hour strike which ended at midnight on 1 May.

The Royal College of Nursing union has warned that it will embark on further industrial action. To carry this out, their members will need to vote again to get another strike mandate after the last one expired.

Also failing to accept the deal is Unite, which currently has a strike mandate for local strikes in some ambulance services and a few hospitals.

In Scotland, members of RCN and the Royal College of Midwives agreed to a 6.5% pay rise from the Scottish government. This is added to the 7.5% increase imposed for 2022-23. This means that over two years, staff will see pay increase by 13-14%.

In Wales and Northern Ireland, Health Unions are still having discussions with their governments.

On 1 and 2 May, about 2,000 Unite members who are paramedics, call handlers and other staff working for ambulance trusts staged a walk out in several parts of England.

The same 5% pay rise deal from April offered to nurses and midwives was offered to Ambulance workers in England including a one-off payment of at least £1,655 Between 13 and 15 March, Junior doctors in England also staged strikes. They also staged a four-day walkout which ended at 07:00 BST on 15 April. The British Medical Association (BMA) said Junior Doctors have seen a pay cut of 26% since 2008 once inflation is taken into account.

They are asking for a 35% pay rise which the government says is "unreasonable in the current economic context."

How the Strikes Have Affected Patients?

It is the first time that nurses from all departments have been involved in a walkout. However, there was still some staff to provide cover for intensive care and trauma.

The strike in April led to cancellation of over 196,000 hospital appointments while the previous strike in March disrupted more than 175,000 appointments and procedures.

While the NHS has continued to advise that people dial 999 in case of an emergency and visit their hospitals even on the strike days unless they are told otherwise, some changes have been occasioned by the strike.

Here are some of them:

  • Emergency care will continue to be available

  • Ambulance will be sent to those with life-threatening situations - such as cardiac arrest, as well as newborns, etc.

  • Serious conditions which may not be life-threatening may not receive immediate attention

  • Calls that are not urgent will not be given priority including women in late-stage labour

  • Patents are however advised to attend GP appointments as GP services will not be affected.

  • It is unlikely that people who suffer falls and other no-life-threatening injuries will receive 999 care.

  • Some hospital dentists will also be on strike.

How Much Are NHS Workers Paid?

Junior Doctors- Starting salary £29,000; £40,000 after second year of training

Doctors- Extra £14,000 for unsociable hours - in the year to September 2022 (NHS Digital); more than £53,000 after training

Nurses- Base salary- £27,000; after four years- £33,000. Extra payments of £4,200 in the year to September 2022. Senior consultants- up to £55,000.

aramedics- £46,643 (in the year to March 2022) including £13,854 from extra payments.

Physios- Base salary £27,000 plus £3,000 in extra payments.

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