Nurses at hospitals in Greater Manchester are on the picket line as part of a wave of national strike action involving NHS staff in a dispute over payand safety concerns.
There are three trusts in the city-region taking part in two days of walk-outs as part of action called by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
The RCN says staffing levels are falling too low and this is potentially putting patients at risk, with low pay a key reason why people are leaving the profession and the health service is struggling to recruit. It is the first time in the 106-year history of the RCN that members have balloted for strike action.
NHS bosses in Greater Manchester have given messages to patients telling them what they should do if they fall ill during the two days of the dispute.
What is the nursing strike about and where in Greater Manchester is it taking place?
Strike action involving RCN members is taking place at hospital trusts on Wednesday (18 January) and Thursday (19 January). This is the second round of strike action in the industrial dispute, with staff at some hospitals walking out in December.
No Greater Manchester hospitals took part in that first round of action, but there are three trusts where nursing staff are on strike this time around: The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust.
Nursing staff were balloted for industrial action after the NHS Agenda for Change pay announcements in 2022, which the RCN says left experienced nurses 20% worse off in real terms than they were 10 years earlier.
The RCN also says that in the last year around 25,000 staff have left the profession in the UK and there are tens of thousands of unfilled nursing posts in England alone. Low pay is a major contributor to staff shortages, the RCN says.
The union has warned the Government that if the issue is not resolved it will be faced with a much larger wave of strike action in early February.
RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: “Today’s strike action by nursing staff is a modest escalation before a sharp increase in under three weeks from now. If a week is a long time for Rishi Sunak, three weeks is the time he needs to get this resolved.
“People aren’t dying because nurses are striking. Nurses are striking because people are dying. That is how severe things are in the NHS and it is time the Prime Minister led a fight for its future.
“Today’s record number of unfilled nurse jobs cannot be left to get worse. Pay nursing staff fairly to turn this around and give the public the care they deserve.”
The Government has so far pushed back against the RCN’s demands on pay but has come under increasing pressure to negotiate during the period of industrial action.
What have NHS bosses in Greater Manchester said about the strike?
Patients are being asked to bear with the health service on strike days as there may be longer waits than usual but NHS bosses have stressed that anyone who needs help should attend to get it and efforts are being made to keep disruption to a minimum.
Mandy Philbin, chief nurse at Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership, said: “Our key message for the public during this week’s strike action is that nobody should put off seeking emergency care. There will inevitably be an impact on services, however we are working with partners to put plans in place to minimise disruption, and key life-saving services will continue.
“The public’s support this winter taking onboard our ask to consider the most appropriate NHS service for their needs has been much appreciated. I urge that people continue to use NHS 111 online for information and support on where they can go to get the most suitable treatment quickly, only calling 999 or attending A&E for life-threatening emergencies, so that our urgent care resources are available to those who really need it. Also please remember, that if your hospital or GP have not contacted you, attend your appointments as planned.
“Our priority, as always, is to provide safe and high-quality care for the people of Greater Manchester and our services are working hard to ensure that where possible minimal disruption is felt. During the days of strike action, you may experience longer wait times for services as we see to the very sick and seriously injured first. I ask that you remain patient with us, and I thank the staff working hard during these difficult circumstances.”