The NHS will face major disruption next month when nurses and ambulance workers in England and Wales go on a historic joint strike over wages.
The coordinated walkouts, according to health service bosses, are “a huge concern” and Monday, February 6, “could be the biggest day of industrial action the NHS has ever seen.”
Hospitals will “grind to a halt,” according to a senior NHS official, as doctors and nurses from other departments are redeployed to provide emergency coverage in strike-affected A&E units.
It will be the first occasion that both nurses and ambulance personnel, including paramedics and call handlers, have chosen not to report for duty at the same time.
Rishi Sunak is under pressure to come to an agreement with the health unions as the conflict intensifies. Keir Starmer and the prime minister continued to clash on Wednesday about the NHS.
In England and Wales, 30,000 to 40,000 nurses were already planning to stage the fifth one-day stoppage of their campaign on February 6. As part of its own four-day strike, the GMB union stated on Wednesday that it will call out more than 10,000 paramedics, call handlers, and other ambulance service employees on the same day.
Hospitals will be required to postpone any non-urgent procedures planned for that day, according to a senior official at an NHS trust in England. This is part of a coordinated effort to help emergency departments cope with the absence of many of their staff members.
“Coordinated strike action is certainly a real concern if it increases the risk of being able to maintain safe staffing in critical areas, particularly in A&E,” they said.
On Thursday, nurses will strike for a second day in a row at 55 trusts. Hospitals will have been forced to cancel roughly 10,000 operations and 50,000 outpatient appointments as a result of the two days of strike action in December at 44 trusts, according to the NHS Confederation.
Ministers continue to refuse to increase the below-inflation pay offers that are currently on the table, or, in the case of NHS employees and teachers, even to undertake extensive conversations with their representatives.