Nurses in England have walked out, affecting some critical services for the first time.
Monday’s industrial action is the latest stoppage in an increasingly bitter dispute with the government over pay and conditions.
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The 28-hour strike, which started at 8pm (19:00 GMT) on Sunday, comes after members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) earlier this month voted to reject a 5 percent government pay increase offer.
Earlier this month, British healthcare and ambulance workers belonging to the GMB trade union and Unison voted to accept a government pay offer.
The offer, agreed upon between the government and healthcare union leaders last month, included a one-off payment equivalent to 2 percent of salaries in the 2022-23 financial year and a 5 percent pay rise for 2023-24.
Monday’s RCN walkout is one of many across the private and public sectors over the past year as workers have grappled with double-digit inflation.
All hospitals have been guaranteed a minimum level of coverage for intensive care and trauma.
But the latest strike is the first time areas such as intensive care, chemotherapy and dialysis have been hit, although some exemptions had been agreed.
In previous walkouts, such services had been excluded from strike action.
RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen called on the health minister, Steve Barclay, to “come back around the table and put a better offer on the table”.
“We need to pay nurses decently and what we need to see now is the NHS standing up and being very clear with the government that they need to address the nursing crisis that they’ve got right throughout the NHS,” she told Sky News broadcaster.
“And until they do so, our nurses, unfortunately, will be left with no option but to continue with the action that they are taking,” she said.
Barclay described the RCN’s decision to go ahead with the walkout as “hugely disappointing” despite “the government’s fair and reasonable offer on pay”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said big pay hikes are unaffordable and risk fuelling inflation.
Doctors have also staged strike action and are demanding a 35 percent pay increase.
Their last stoppage earlier this month lasted four days, with doctors’ representatives arguing that pandemic backlogs coupled with staff shortages are massively increasing workloads, endangering patients.