Don’t fall on the ice today… You might not be seen, doctor warns as NHS strikes begin

How many employees have left?

Up to 100,000 nurses will strike again today and December 20 after their union voted to take industrial action.

Walkouts will take place at around a quarter of NHS trusts and community teams across England, as well as every trust in Northern Ireland and all but one health authority in Wales.

Initially, however, there were fears that strikes would affect dozens of other locations.

Today’s 12-hour work stoppage from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. will cause significant disruption to services.

Who organizes the strike?

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), described by critics as militant, organized the strikes.

Around 300,000 members were elected in the largest vote for strike action in its 106-year history.

Instead of a national vote, mini-ballots were held at hospital foundations or community services.

Pat Cullen, the RCN’s boss, has insisted nurses are not “greedy people” and just need to “make ends meet”.

What does the RCN want?

The union wants a wage increase of 5 percent above inflation for its members, which the government has described as “unaffordable”.

This would theoretically bring in an extra £6,000 a year for the average nurse, who earns around £35,600 a year.

No10 have so far refused to budge on their salary offer, which stands at around 4 per cent, or £1,400 in real terms.

Despite his demands, the RCN has indicated that he would accept a lower offer.

The RCN claims years of low wages for nurses have driven many out of the profession and are jeopardizing patient care.

NHS strikes in Scotland were called off earlier this week after two unions accepted an improved wage offer from the government.

So why isn’t every nurse on strike?

Not every hospital voted for strikes.

At least 50 percent of RCN members in each mini-vote had to vote for legitimacy of the results.

Even if nurses have individually voted yes, they cannot legally challenge their own trust if the ballots at their hospital go the other way.

Another reason is that not every nurse is represented by the RCN. Some belong to other unions planning actions on different days.

Some nurses who voted in favor of the strike will be assigned to work during the strike to maintain so-called life-saving emergency care and care for patients already in hospital.

Others said they could not afford membership fees even though they wanted to go on strike.

Who decides how nurses are paid?

The independent remuneration verification body decides on the remuneration of nursing staff after consultation with trade unions, ministers and experts.

However, the unions have criticized the independence of the body.

Ex-Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the panel that salary recommendations must be “affordable” and “within set budget”.

Ms Cullen has accused current Health Secretary Steve Barclay of “belligerence” after he refused to discuss the pay issue.

Are patients at risk?

NHS bosses have given reassurances they will do everything they can to keep patients safe.

The RCN has announced that it will continue to staff chemotherapy, cancer emergency services, dialysis, intensive care units, neonatal and pediatric intensive care units.

Some areas of mental health and learning disability and autism services are also exempt, while trusts have been told they can request staff for specific clinical needs.

When it comes to emergency rooms and adult emergency care, nurses work Christmas Day-style rosters.

However, there have been concerns within the NHS about the level of coverage trusts can expect for urgent cancer treatment.

Some decisions are likely to be made locally and on a case-by-case basis.

However, Ms Cullen said “all urgent cancer treatments are continuing”.

Is emergency care affected?

Union laws require life support to continue during strikes, so staff are expected to work in critical care and emergency care.

However, it is expected that maternity services and A&E patients will experience greater disruption due to work stoppages.

Adult A&E and Emergency Nurses work in Christmas Day style. Don’t fall on the ice today… You might not be seen, doctor warns as NHS strikes begin

Edmund DeMarche

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