Sheffield hospital staff join national pause on strike action due to ‘intensive talks’ with government

Royal Hallamshire Hospital pictured from Weston Road. Credit: Pmberry

Staff at Sheffield’s hospitals are to pause next week’s 48-hour strike after the Royal College of Nursing announced talks with the government.

The government had suggested a 3.5% pay rise for 2023-24 earlier this week but this is still well below the rate of inflation which was 10.1% in January.

It is further below the rate that the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) had previously asked for, which was an increase of 19.2%, as it says that some experienced nursing positions have seen their pay fall in ‘real terms’ by as much as 20% since 2010.

Around 18,500 staff work at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, across their hospitals and community services, a large number of whom will be affected by this announcement.

Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, had labelled the union’s demands as “neither reasonable or affordable”.

Many have aired their displeasure at the pause in the strike action.

Speaking on social media, Harry Eccles, a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Addiction, said: “This doesn’t even need discussion. It’s a no. Obviously a no. If this is all they are offering, then let’s resume strike action. The government are playing with patient safety and people’s lives.”

Patrick Bond, an NHS worker, said: “RCN was asking for 15% increase, now they’re suspending action to negotiate a possible 3% increase. What do they say to their members who took the action?”

However, some were pleased by the announcement, including Claire Dewsnap, a Medical Consultant at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, who said: “This is fantastic news – let’s hope they are genuinely productive and the RCN get some results.”

Nurses in Sheffield have been striving for better pay for a long time. Image credit: Tim Dennell Licence: CC BY-NC 2.0

Yesterday, the RCN and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) released a joint statement:

“The government and Royal College of Nursing have agreed to enter a process of intensive talks. Both sides are committed to finding a fair and reasonable settlement that recognises the vital role that nurses and nursing play in the National Health Service and the wider economic pressures facing the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister’s priority to halve inflation. The talks will focus on pay, terms and conditions, and productivity enhancing reforms.

“The Health Secretary will meet with the Royal College of Nursing on Wednesday [22 February 2023] to begin talks. The Royal College of Nursing will pause strike action during these talks.”

When contacted, the RCN stated that they are “not saying anything more than in [their] joint statement with DHSC”.

The DHSC was unavailable for comment at the time of publication, but in their written evidence document to the NHS Pay Review Body, they said:

“In 2022 to 2023, the pay awards were significantly above the government’s affordability envelope. As a result, a significant reprioritisation exercise within NHSE has had to be undertaken to identify the funding necessary, with the consequent need to slow investment in service transformation.”

Despite the pause for nursing staff, many strikes are still taking place across the country this month and the next, including for ambulance workers, teachers, university staff and rail workers.

Image credit: Pmberry

Written by Oliver Mitchell

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