Health Secretary Steve Barclay and nursing union leader Pat Cullen to meet as pay row continues
The Health Secretary will hold a further meeting with the head of the Royal College of Nursing as the battle over pay and conditions continues.
Pat Cullen told members of the RCN at their annual conference in Brighton that she is set to meet Steve Barclay though it is “not about negotiations” and she will explain again why nurses have rejected the current pay settlement.
An RCN postal ballot on further industrial action will open on May 23 and close on June 23.
The RCN has warned that strikes could go on until Christmas, which would force the cancellation of thousands of patient operations and appointments.
Ms Cullen said to applause: “In seven days from now, nursing staff in England will receive fresh ballot papers on the question of whether to continue with strike action for up to six more months.
“If you give the college another six-month mandate for strike action, across the whole of England’s NHS, then Government will be forced to act once more.
“Nobody wants to see twice as many nurses take strike action. Or twice as many hospitals affected by a strike.
“Prime Minister, you did the right thing to open negotiations with me in February. Before the 75th birthday of the NHS this July, let’s get this job finished.”
Patients are not dying because nurses are striking; nurses are striking because our patients are dying
She added that “‘they’ might even be watching congress”, adding: “I’ll tell you why. Who emailed me last night at nine o’clock?”
To cheers from the audience, she said: “The Health Secretary wants to see me.
“Colleagues, this is not about negotiations, but it is important that I go and tell him again why many of you voted to reject the pay offer.”
Ms Cullen told RCN members she has never “met a nurse or support worker who wanted to be on a picket line”.
She added: “Standing outside our work became the only way to change what was happening inside.
“Patients are not dying because nurses are striking; nurses are striking because our patients are dying. It is as clear as that.”
Ms Cullen has urged ministers to prevent nurses from going into the winter months on strike.
She had initially urged members to accept the Government’s revised pay offer of 5% for this year and a one-off payment for last year.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, she said: “What was the offer? It was basically a consolidated 9% over a couple of years, and that’s a really important point. And we’re saying to Government, let’s negotiate further and add to it.”
Ms Cullen was referring to the 4% pay uplift from 2022/23 and the 5% for 2023/24 consolidated.
Downing Street has said some nurses would already receive double-digit pay rises under the deal rejected by RCN members.