Nurses in England strike over ongoing pay dispute with UK government

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By Euronews  with AP
Nurses hold banners and placards as they picket during a strike over pay, outside the University College Hospital, in London
Nurses hold banners and placards as they picket during a strike over pay, outside the University College Hospital, in London   -   Copyright  Alberto Pezzali/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

Nurses in England have returned to the picket line as part of an unprecedented push to demand better pay, amid soaring inflation.

With negotiations between health unions and the government at a stalemate, thousands have walked out at hospitals across the country in a series of stoppages planned for Wednesday and Thursday.

This latest wave of strike action will likely add pressure to the UK health service which the British Medical Association says is already struggling to cope with staff shortages, falling bed numbers and underfunding. 

Emergency care and cancer treatment will continue, but thousands of appointments and procedures are likely to be postponed, according to the NHS Confederation, an organisation that represents National Health Service trusts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

On Tuesday, UK Health Minister Steve Barclay admitted that the industrial action "will have an impact on patients."

Health workers are calling for a pay rise of 5% above inflation, but their representatives have said they could compromise if the government gets directly involved in negotiations with employers.

Nurses, ambulance crews, train drivers, airport baggage handlers, border staff, driving instructors, bus drivers and postal workers have gone on strike in recent months to demand higher pay amid a cost-of-living crisis.

The government also has angered unions by introducing a bill that will make it harder for key workers to strike by setting ”minimum safety levels” for firefighters, ambulance services and railways that must be maintained during a walkout.