Minister warns of “no more money” for NHS payrises as nursing union takes to the picket line
Wales’ health minister has warned that there “no more money available” to fund NHS payrises as nursing staff take to the picket line as part of their fight for fair pay and improved working conditions.
The initial round of industrial action by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) took place in December 2022, and this time around, with stricter derogations in place, the disruptions are expected to be even more significant.
All health boards, excluding Aneurin Bevan health board in southeast Wales, will be impacted by the strikes – which will take place between 7am and 7pm today and tomorrow (June 7).
Despite the wide-ranging scope of the strike, certain units will stay staffed to ensure the provision of essential services continues.
These units include critical care, dialysis and chemotherapy services, life-threatening cancer treatments, neonatal and paediatric intensive care units, and standalone paediatric emergency departments.
Members of the union have called on Health Minister Eluned Morgan to resume pay negotiations, but no further discussions have been arranged yet.
At a Welsh Government press conference this morning the minister was challenged on why she hadn’t taken action to stop today’s industrial action and whether it was now a case of which side “blinks first.”
Ms Morgan stated that the Welsh Government is not in a position to offer further pay enhancements without impacting the wider NHS budget.
She said: “We’ve been in negotiations for months upon months upon months.
“We recognise that there is a lot of frustration amongst NHS workers and that’s why we have moved heaven and earth to try and find this additional funding.
“We put a not an ungenerous offer on the table when you consider the financial constraints that we’re working under at the moment.
“We’ve got a lot of sympathy for the position. Our problem is that that we do not have more money if we were given more money by the UK Government and might be in a different situation. That is not the position we’re in at the moment.
“We have gone a very long way, I think, to addressing the issue, which is why we’re very pleased that as a collective the health unions have agreed to the pay off that we’ve put on the table.
“My officials meet almost on a daily basis with the RCN that’s the route for the negotiations to happen. And at the end of the process, then I become involved.
“So if there is no more money that we can offer, which is the request, then obviously that that creates a problem. The negotiations or discussions will continue with my officials, we’re always willing to talk.
“But I’m afraid if it involves more money, that is going to be extremely difficult.
“I can’t tell you how pressurised the NHS budget is this financial year. We are contending with massive inflationary pressures, without additional funding from the UK Government.
“Everything that we’ve been able to offer is having to come out from mainstream NHS budgets.
“We do have to think not just of the workers, who obviously we rely on completely for the NHS, but we’ve also got to think about the patients and their need.”
Speaking ahead of the strike action RCN Wales Director, Helen Whyley, expressed the union’s concerns, stating: “If two consecutive days of strike action still does not shake the Welsh government to listen to the voice of nursing in Wales and take actions to resolve our dispute, we will return to the picket lines once again in July.
“Nursing staff are looking for a fair settlement that shows the government values and understands their profession now and into the future.
“I would remind the minister that it is entirely in her gift.”
“Nursing makes up the largest portion of the NHS. The Welsh government should heed our concerns about patients’ safety and well-being and the nursing profession future.”
“We will continue to be guided by our members, who are best placed to make decisions on what they consider to be an adequate acknowledgement of their skills and value in the NHS.”
“Our statutory industrial action ballot for more strike action will open in early July.”
Pictured: Industrial action staged in December Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com