Cabinet split over NHS strikes as ‘Iron Chancellor’ Jeremy Hunt ‘blocks efforts to raise nurses’ pay’

Cabinet split over NHS strikes as ‘Iron Chancellor’ Jeremy Hunt blocked Health Secretary Steve Barclay’s efforts to give nurses a pay rise to prevent industrial action

  • Hunt is accused of blocking Barclay’s efforts to give nurses extra money to end strikes
  • The Chancellor wants every salary increase to come from the existing health budget
  • Nurses have threatened to double the strike effort over the next month

Ministers are at war over whether to give nurses a pay rise to avoid another damaging NHS strike.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has come under fire for claims he is blocking Steve Barclay’s efforts to negotiate an end to industrial action in UK hospitals.

The Health Secretary has reportedly told unions he wants to persuade the Treasury to offer NHS workers higher wages.

But Mr Hunt wants any pay rise to come from the existing healthcare budget, meaning cuts would be required for care elsewhere.

Nurses have threatened to double their strike effort over the next month, with more staff walkouts than in an initial strike in December.

Unison’s Sara Gorton has revealed Steve Barclay’s tone was “quite different” in negotiations this week and he privately told unions he wanted to secure a better salary offer from No 10, according to The Observer.

Ms Gorton told the newspaper Mr Barclay had “talked about asking us to argue with the Treasury for the investment required”.

Meanwhile, a source told the Sunday Times of Mr Hunt: “Last year he made the case for more funding for the NHS in his book ‘Zero’. Now he has become the iron chancellor who says no to everything.’

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has come under fire for claims he is blocking Steve Barclay's efforts to negotiate an end to industrial action in UK hospitals.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has come under fire for claims he is blocking Steve Barclay’s efforts to negotiate an end to industrial action in UK hospitals.

The Health Secretary has reportedly told unions he wants to persuade the Treasury to offer NHS workers higher wages. But Mr Hunt wants any pay rise to come from the existing healthcare budget.

The Health Secretary has reportedly told unions he wants to persuade the Treasury to offer NHS workers higher wages. But Mr Hunt wants any pay rise to come from the existing healthcare budget.

Nurses have threatened to double their strike effort over the next month, with more staff walking out than in an initial strike earlier this month.

Nurses have threatened to double their strike effort over the next month, with more staff walking out than in an initial strike earlier this month.

Ms Gorton added that the Health Secretary appeared ready to talk about more salaries for all NHS staff except doctors this year.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that twice as many nurses will be called on strike in early February in a bid to increase pressure on the government.

RCN Secretary General Pat Cullen described the Prime Minister’s position in their deadlock as “confusing, reckless and politically ill-considered” as he “seems completely uninterested in finding a way to stop this”.

This comes as ministers push for new legislation mandating minimum strike days – laws expected to take around six months to pass Parliament.

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is due to be re-examined by MPs on Monday.

Nurses in England will return to picket lines on Wednesday and Thursday, accusing the Government of “failing to act” after its historic industrial dispute in December.

The RCN said that unlike its action in December, which involved around a quarter of England’s hospitals and community teams, all trusts in Northern Ireland and all but one health authority in Wales, this week’s strikes will be in England only.

During its action, the union said a “life support care model” is in place, meaning areas such as intensive care units and chemotherapy services are exempt, while inpatient areas rely on night workers.

Civil servants are the latest to join the ranks of the striking workers amid rising labor unrest that has caused work stoppages across the country, including by ambulance workers, railroad workers and border guards workers.

This week London bus workers at Abellio will also go on strike on Monday and Thursday.

North of the border, members of the Educational Institute of Scotland will hold further strikes this week.

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Emma Colton

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