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Next nurses’ strike will be twice as big if no agreement reached, union warns

Double the number of nurses will be asked to strike in early February in a bid to increase pressure on the Government, union leaders have warned.

The Royal College of Nursing has said that if progress is not made in negotiations by the end of January, the next set of strikes will include all eligible members in England for the first time.

This comes as ministers push for new laws requiring minimum levels of service on strike days – legislation which is expected to take around six months to pass through Parliament.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen described the Prime Minister’s position in their negotiation deadlock as “baffling, reckless and politically ill-considered”.

She said: “The Prime Minister gave nursing staff a little optimism that he was beginning to move, but seven days later he appears entirely uninterested in finding a way to stop this.

“The public supports nurses because of just how much nurses give to the public.

Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg
Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“Rishi Sunak’s intransigence is baffling, reckless and politically ill-considered.

“Nursing staff just wanted to be valued and recognised.

“Without, they will keep leaving in record numbers with consequences for patients that Robert Francis documented in painful detail.

“The nurse shortage costs lives – Sunak cannot put a price on a safe NHS.”

Industrial strike
Members of the Royal College of Nursing on the picket line outside St Thomas’ Hospital, central London (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Nursing staff from more than 55 NHS trusts in England are set to take industrial action on Wednesday and Thursday.

The RCN has said the next strike is likely to be on February 6, to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Robert Francis inquiry into Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust and the impact of nurse shortages on patient mortality.

The inquiry uncovered the neglect of hundreds of patients at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2009, with accounts of some elderly people being left lying in their own urine, unable to eat, drink or take essential medication.

Mr Francis and the Patient Association’s chief executive, Rachel Power, described the current stress on the NHS and excess death levels as “Mid Staffs playing out on a national level, if not worse” in a letter to the Health Secretary sent last week.

Nurses in Wales are also expected to strike in February following a month without industrial action.

The RCN is not planning to stage strikes in Northern Ireland, where there is no executive in place, or in Scotland, where action remains paused as negotiations continue.