UK's top nurse joins up to 100k medics in NHS's biggest EVER walk-out

UK’s chief nurse joins up to 100k placard-wielding medics in NHS’s biggest EVER walk-out as Steve Barclay rules out caving into union’s pay demands

  • Up to 100,000 nurses are taking to picket lines on the first day of nurses strikes
  • Nurses have walked out at hospitals across England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Millions set to be affected with last minute appointment cancellations expected
  • NHS nurses on strike: Which hospitals are affected? 

Britain’s top nurse today joined up to 100,000 medics who walked out on their jobs in the biggest strike in NHS history.

Nurses demanding better pay braved -8C temperatures and snow to bolster picket lines outside ailing hospitals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Only a Christmas Day level of service was provided at dozens of affected hospitals, triggering huge disruption across the country and cancelling tens of thousands of appointments and ops.

Dame Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, joined strikers outside a London hospital as she urged ministers seek an ‘urgent resolution’ with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the union orchestrating today’s devastating action.

Rail union baron boss Mick Lynch, whose wife is a nurse, and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also attended the series of strikes.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay, however, avoided striking medics. Visiting a hospital that did not back action, he remained adamant that the Government wouldn’t meet the RCN’s inflation-busting pay demands.

NHS England’s chief nursing officer Dame Ruth May, pictured by Eleanor Hayward, was seen on picket lines at St Thomas’s, where she said she supports striking nurses and called on the Government to reach an ‘urgent resolution’ with nurses over pay

Health Secretary Steve Barclay avoided striking medics — visiting a hospital that did not back action — where he remained adamant that the Government wouldn’t meet the union’s pay demands

LONDON: Mick Lynch, Secretary-General of the RMT Union joins Nurses on a picket line at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, West London

NEWCASTLE: Members of the RCN on the picket line outside Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle

Up to 100,000 nurses will go on strike today and again on December 20 after their union voted in favour of industrial action.

Walk-outs will occur at around a quarter of NHS trusts and community teams across England, as well as at every trust in Northern Ireland and all but one health board in Wales. 

Initially it was feared that dozens more locations would be affected by strike action, however.

Today’s 12-hour walk-outs, stretching from 8am to 8pm, will cause major disruption to services. 

Who is organising the strike? 

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), described as militant by critics, has organised the strikes.

Some 300,000 members were balloted in the biggest ever vote for strike action in its 106-year existence. 

Rather than one national ballot, mini ballots were held at hospital trusts or community services. 

Pat Cullen, the RCN’s boss, has insisted nurses that nurses are not ‘greedy people’ and just need to ‘make ends meet’.

What does the RCN want?

The union wants a pay increase of 5 per cent above inflation for its members, which the Government has called ‘unaffordable’. 

This would grant the average nurse, who earns roughly £35,600 each year, an extra £6,000 annually, in theory. 

No10 has so far refused to budge on its pay offer, which amounts to approximately 4 per cent, or £1,400 in real terms. 

Despite its demands, the RCN has indicated it would accept a lower offer.

The RCN claims years of low pay for nurses has driven many out of the profession and is putting patient care at risk.

NHS strikes in Scotland were called off earlier this week after two unions accepted an improved pay offer from the Government. 

So why isn’t every nurse striking? 

Strike action was not voted for at every hospital. 

At least 50 per cent of RCN members in each mini ballot needed to vote for results to be legitimate. 

Even if nurses individually voted yes, they cannot legally strike at their own trust if ballots at their hospital went the other way. 

Another reason is that not every nurse is represented by the RCN. Some belong to other unions, which have action planned on different days.

Some nurses who voted to strike are tasked to work during the industrial action to maintain so-called ‘life and limb’ emergency care and to look after those patients already in hospital.

Others have said membership fees are unaffordable for them, despite their desire to strike. 

Who decides nurses’ pay?

The independent pay review body decide nurses’ pay after consulting with unions, ministers and experts.

However, the unions have criticised the independence of the body.

Ex-Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the body that pay recommendations needed to be ‘affordable’ and ‘within budgets set’.

Ms Cullen has accused current Health Secretary Steve Barclay of ‘belligerence’ after he refused to discuss the issue of pay.

A total of 44 trusts across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are having to run a ‘Christmas Day service’, with fears cancer patients could miss out on treatment. 

The row is over pay and working conditions, with the RCN demanding a pay rise 5 per cent above RPI inflation — equivalent to a 19 per cent boost. However, it has indicated it would accept a lower offer.

The Government has so far refused to negotiate on salaries, sticking with its offer of around 4 per cent, or £1,400, which is backed by its independent NHS Pay Review Body. But the union says the system, which was set up under Margaret Thatcher, is ‘out of date’ and ‘does not work for nurses’.

Today marks the first day of industrial action among the nurses, with a second set for December 20. The union is also expected to announce more dates for January, unless an agreement is reached with Government. 

Health leaders have urged those unwell to still come forward as the NHS ‘is open’ but admitted that it is ‘concerned about the risk that strikes pose to patients’. 

Picket lines have been set up at dozens of hospitals. Major trusts taking part include Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust in London, Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

NHS England’s chief nursing officer Dame Ruth May was seen on picket lines at St Thomas’s, where she said she supports striking nurses and called on the Government to reach an ‘urgent resolution’ with nurses over pay.

She said: ‘I’m here today at St Thomas’s to thank all nurses.

‘Of course, pay is a matter between the unions and the Government and I’d like to see, as nurses across the country would like to see, a resolution as soon as possible.’

In a broadcast interview posted to Twitter she said she wanted to thank all nurses, both those working inside hospitals and those on the picket line. 

During a visit to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, the Health Secretary said he spoke to Dame Ruth ahead of her visit to the picket lines and she was ‘very clear’ on wanting to support all nurses.

Mr Barclay said ‘there is room’ for discussion with the nursing union, but appeared to rule out moving on pay. 

He said: ‘I don’t want to take money away from those patients that are waiting for those operations.

‘It’s important we set up the new surgical hubs, we set up the new diagnostic centres, we announced another 19 last week, that’s an extra one million tests and scans….

‘We’re investing in new facilities… so we can bring those backlogs down.’

He said the RCN’s demand for a 19 per cent pay rise ‘is not affordable given the wider cost-of-living pressures that the public face’.

Pressed on whether he is willing to discuss pay with the RCN, Mr Barclay said: ‘We’ve been clear that we have an independent process and that is the process we followed. 

‘If we were not meeting the recommendations in full, I’m sure I’d be asked as to why when there is an independent process, why we haven’t followed that…

‘There is room to discuss, as I say, a wide range of issues.’

He also said that ‘even when’ the Scottish Government offered a new pay deal for NHS staff, ‘the trade union (GMB) has just come out today rejecting that deal’.

Asked where he went from here and whether there was wriggle room on pay, Mr Barclay said: ‘When I speak to nurses, which I am doing again today on my visit here at Chelsea and Westminster, I hear that there’s a number of issues that are of concern.

‘Of course, pay is important and that’s why we recognise that with the pay review body but so is the new hospitals building programme, so is investing in technology.

‘One of the bugbears nurses often tell me is when the technology doesn’t work as they need it to do.

‘Safety is also important. For example, at A&E, their staffing levels, that have been discussed with me.’

Meanwhile, RMT boss Mr Lynch, who has coordinated nation-wide train strikes, also joined nurses at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington in west London.

Richard Burgon, Labour MP for Leeds East, addressed nurses at the same hospital. 

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn joins joined nurses on the picket line outside Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Nurses were forced to break picket lines and provide emergency first aid after a man collapsed just metres from the main entrance of Bristol Royal Infirmary this morning.

Within ten minutes, hospital staff collected the patient, putting him on a spinal board and lifting him onto a stretcher. The striking nurses returned to the picket line shortly afterwards. 

Outside Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool, nurses gathered in freezing temperatures to join the picket line from 7.30am. 

Many held placards, with slogans including ‘Short staffing costs lives’ and ‘You clapped for us, now act for us’. 

One woman held signs saying ‘F*** the Tories’ and ‘If nurses are out here, there’s something wrong in there’. 

Cars beeped their horns as they passed the picket line outside the hospital’s emergency department. 

The Royal College of Nursing has pledged industrial action on December 15 and 20

This map shows the hospitals where the Royal College of Nursing will hold its first strikes over pay on Thursday 15 and Tuesday 20 December

This graph shows the Royal College of Nursing’s demands for a 5 per cent above inflation pay rise for the bands covered by its membership which includes healthcare assistants and nurses. Estimates based on NHS Employers data

The latest NHS data recorded that about 45,000 nursing posts in England are vacant as of the end of June. London has highest percentage missing, with 15 per cent of nursing posts unfilled

NHS data shows efforts to get more nurses into the health service are only barely keeping pace with the number of experienced nurses quitting

LONDON: RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen (second left) with members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on the picket line outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London

LONDON: Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn joins members of the RCN on the picket line outside Great Ormond Street Hospital in London

LONDON: Richard Burgon, Labour MP for Leeds East, addresses nurses at a picket line outside St Mary’s Hospital in west London

 LONDON: Members of the RCN on the picket line outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London

Not fancy a grilling, Steve? Health Secretary avoids prime-time interviews on day of biggest ever NHS strike 

Have you seen this man? Health Secretary Steve Barclay was notably absent from the TV broadcast round this morning as NHS nurses held their first strike day

Outside of St Thomas’ Hospital in west London, drivers are beeping their horns and a woman cheered from a car window in apparent support for the nurses. 

RCN chief executive Pat Cullen joined nurses and told members: ‘I want to thank you so much for what you are doing – you’re just amazing.’ 

She said it is ‘tragic’ that nurses have to take to picket lines for their voices to be heard and that ministers can ‘sit in their offices today and keep our nurses out in the cold’. 

Ms Cullen called for higher pay to stop nurses leaving the sector and seeking out jobs in supermarkets and retail. There are currently 50,000 vacancies in nursing.

She said: ‘(Nurses) are not being greedy, they are asking for the 20 per cent that has been taken out of their pay over the last decade to be put back in and to make sure that they can continue and care for their patients.’

Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that while nurses pay has increased by 20 per cent in the last decade, it has fallen behind rises in inflation (32 per cent) and private sector pay (41 per cent). 

Linda Tovey, a critical care nurse outside the hospital, said: ‘It’s increasingly difficult to come to work and go home and think ‘Actually I don’t think I can turn the heating on’. 

‘My wages aren’t bad for a nurse but I still have to think about what I’m doing with my money every month and that is not the position I imagined myself being in. 

‘People do a huge amount of extra work, in terms of studying and all that kind of stuff, and you don’t get the recognition in terms of wages. 

The latest results of the NHS strike ballots are shown here, so far only midwives have failed chosen not to strike

‘My own particular circumstances mean I do just about have some money left at the end of the month but I still go home and think twice about turning a light on.

‘I don’t cook food in my oven very often since I realised to cook one meal costs the same as it used to cost me for my electricity the whole day.’ 

Labour shadow mental health secretary Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said she was in ‘solidarity’ with striking nurses and that they have her ‘full support’. Her party has said it would not offer the RCN its requested 19 per cent pay rise but would negotiate with the union.

Patients at striking hospitals have also shared their support of the strikes.

David Whatkiss, 69, brought his wife Carol, 67, to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham today with liver cirrhosis. He said he ‘definitely supports the strike’ despite waiting for over an hour to be seen.

He said: ‘She is in a wheelchair waiting on the ward.

‘Queen Elizabeth is meant to be the best in the UK for her problem so fingers crossed she’ll get seen too soon.

‘I definitely support the strike, they do a fantastic job and should be paid better for what they do.

‘You get MPs on ridiculous wages and then the nurses are on nothing.

‘The whole government are supporting themselves and not the public.’

Monica Blesca, 19, was leaving the hospital with her aunty this morning who had just had a heart check-up..

She said: ‘We didn’t experience any delays but there were lots of people waiting in the waiting areas and quite a big queue.

‘It looked like they were understaffed and you could feel it slightly as it was quieter than normal.

‘But we got seen quickly and I support what the nurses are fighting for and for the work they do they deserve more. It’s an incomparable job.’

Lorrain Vox, 62, had just been to visit her 90-year-old mother at the hospital, who had been on a ward for several days for check-ups.

In other developments:

  • Nurses’ strike means 70,000 appointments, procedures and surgeries will be lost in England, a health minister has warned;
  • Health Secretary Steve Barclay has avoided prime-time interviews on day of biggest ever NHS strike;
  • Don’t fall over on the ice today… you might face even worse delays than feared, a TV doctor has warned as devastating NHS strikes begin.

LONDON: Members of the RCN on the picket line outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London 

LONDON: Members of the RCN on the picket line outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London 

LONDON: Members of the RCN on the picket line outside Great Ormond Street Hospital in London

LONDON: Nurses participate in a protest outside the St. Thomas’ Hospital in London

A minor injury and illness unit in Hertfordshire has been closed due to the nursing strikes. NHS Herts and West Essex ICB said its Cheshunt facility (pictured) was not operating and urged patients to use NHS 111 instead

Nurses on picket lines have said staff shortages mean patients are being neglected, while low salaries mean some nurses are turning to food banks to feed their children. 

‘There’s no beds’ 

Pamela Jones said: ‘I’m striking today because I’ve been nursing for 32 years; within those 32 years the changes have been astronomical.

‘The public need to understand the pressures that everyone’s under. You’ve only got to come into A&E and see the queues, there’s no beds.

‘We want to save our NHS, we don’t want it to go, and I think this is the way forward, it’s the only way we can put our point across.

‘We don’t want to be here. I was really torn about striking because it’s not something I’ve ever, ever thought in my lifetime I’d ever had to do, but yet the Government has pushed us to this.

‘I hope the Government listens, because none of us want to be here, we just want a fair pay rise.’

‘More nurses using food banks’

Liverpool staff nurse Kelly Hopkins, 46, who has been a nurse for 25 years, said she felt ‘sad’ when she went in to work.

She said: ‘I have connections with the food bank and there are more and more nurses using the food bank, which is just not acceptable.

‘They’re coming in to work to care for other people and no-one’s caring for them.

‘They’re having to use food banks, they’re coming in cold, they’re going without food to feed their children, it’s just crazy.’

Ms Hopkins said she was motivated to strike over safe staffing levels.

She said there are thousands of job vacancies across the NHS but it is struggling to attract new workers.

‘The wards are understaffed, which is affecting patient care.

‘I came into nursing to give good nursing care and we can’t give it because there’s not enough of it.

‘Patients aren’t getting their teeth brushed, they’re lying in their own waste because there aren’t enough of us, we can’t split ourselves in two, especially on the wards.

‘Unless we stand up and say something, it’s just going to get worse.’

‘There aren’t enough of us’ 

Linda Tovey, 49, a critical care nurse from Kent, who stood outside St Thomas’, said: ‘There is a huge amount of effort required to patch the holes in the nursing workforce, and part of the reason why so many people are leaving is the work is difficult because there aren’t enough of us, and the system is under so much stress.

‘The money that you get paid doesn’t seem worth it. There are far easier ways to make a better living and we go home feeling guilty because we can’t do the job we were trained to do.

‘It’s also increasingly difficult to come to work and go home and think ‘Actually, I don’t think I can turn the heating on’.

‘My wages aren’t bad for a nurse but I still have to think about what I’m doing with my money every month and that is not the position I imagined myself being in.

‘People do a huge amount of extra work, in terms of studying and all that kind of stuff, and you don’t get the recognition in terms of wages.

‘My own particular circumstances mean I do just about have some money left at the end of the month but I still go home and think twice about turning a light on.

‘I don’t cook food in my oven very often since I realised to cook one meal costs the same as it used to cost me for my electricity the whole day.’ 

She said: ‘I haven’t seen any effect today on the hospital due to the strike action, but I did get here very early this morning.

‘The treatment she has had over the past week has been amazing and I support what the nurses are fighting for.

‘There may be people that will be effected by the staff shortages today but for me and my mother, we haven’t felt this.’ 

On strike days, the RCN said health service will still staff chemotherapy, emergency cancer services, dialysis, critical care units, neonatal and paediatric intensive care — with the latter being staffed because of concerns about the Strep A outbreak. 

Some mental health, learning disability and autism services are also exempt, while trusts have been told they can request staffing for specific clinical needs.

Despite these services being protected, leaders warned that ‘real concerns remain’ about the impact of the strike, which is the first in the RCN’s 106-year history, with around 70,000 appointments, procedures and surgeries set to be lost in England alone.

Ms Cullen said the today is a ‘tragic day’ for nurses, patients and the NHS.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I would ask this Government to take a long look at themselves for leaving the largest workforce in the NHS out in the cold.

‘Today, there will be disruption, there is no doubt about that, and for that we are truly sorry.’

Rishi Sunak yesterday told MPs the Government had ‘consistently’ met with unions and would ‘continue to back our nurses’. 

The RCN boss said Health Secretary Steve Barclay had told her he would discuss ‘anything but pay’ — an approach that she said will ‘resolve nothing’ and lead to more ‘days like this’, when nurses take to picket lines.

The pair last spoke on Monday, which ended with Ms Cullen accusing the Health Secretary of ‘belligerence’. 

Downing Street has said a one per cent pay rise for all NHS staff except doctors, dentists and very senior managers would cost £700million.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said double-digit pay rises across the board for public sector workers would cost £28billion, which ‘could be inflationary’ and would have to come from higher taxation or borrowing.

‘The Government does not think those sorts of sums are affordable in the current circumstances,’ he said.

But Jerry Cope, the former head of the NHS Pay Review Body, said ministers should ask it to reconsider the pay offer for nurses due to the rise in inflation.

He told the Today programme: ‘I think it’s a way out because it respects the integrity of the pay review body.’

Mr Cope added: ‘The pay review body may say to ministers: ‘No we considered everything fully last time, we don’t wish to add anything’.

‘But if it’s to be a fair and independent process in these extraordinary circumstances we’ve got at the moment, I think it does probably require a slightly left-of-field approach.’

The Prime Minister has admitted that ‘millions of people across this country’ will have their healthcare disrupted because of the strike.

Ms Cullen called on the Government to apologise to those whose care is cancelled today, as well as the 7.2million people waiting for treatment in England.

She said: ‘This isn’t the first day that treatment and care have been cancelled. 

‘It’s cancelled time on time. I’ve just dealt yesterday with a nurse, one of our own nurses, who has had her radiotherapy cancelled now and delayed for another eight weeks and why?

‘Because there are not the staff to provide those services. And that is tragic, it is tragic to run a health service on a shoe string the way this Government expects it to.’

Professor Tim Orchard, chief executive of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, today warned some surgery would have to be postponed for as long as six weeks.

He said: ‘We have had to postpone much of our other planned care or, where possible, move to virtual appointments. 

‘We expect that patients who have had their appointment or surgery postponed will be able to be rescheduled for the end of January.’  

Strikes among nurses are expected to rumble on for months. 

Health chiefs have raised concerns about disruption to cancer care, while charities have warned the limited services could send survival rates backwards.

Dame Cally Palmer, NHS England’s national cancer director, this week wrote to Mrs Cullen asking the RCN to let members to perform urgent cancer surgery and emergency operations to ‘avoid harm’.

Up to 10,000 patients who would typically be examined for suspected cancer each day may find their appointments disrupted, she added.

NEWCASTLE: Members of the RCN on the picket line outside Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle 

NEWCASTLE: Members of the RCN on the picket line outside Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle

NEWCASTLE: Members of the RCN on the picket line outside Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle

NEWCASTLE: Members of the RCN on the picket line outside Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle 

NEWCASTLE: Members of the RCN on the picket line outside Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle 

Nurses’ strike means 70,000 appointments, procedures and surgeries will be LOST in England, health minister warns as biggest ever NHS walkouts begin today 

Health minister Maria Caulfield said around tens of thousands of appointments, procedures and surgeries will be lost in England due to the strike. She told Sky News: ‘Cancer surgeries are going to be closed in those 44 trusts in England. We reckon it’s about 70,000 appointments, procedures, surgeries that will be lost

But Ms Cullen this morning said the letter was ‘behind the curve’ as those services had already been exempted from strike action. ‘All urgent cancer treatments will go ahead,’ she said. 

While chemotherapy and life-saving surgery will be performed, thousands in need of scans, checks, radiotherapy and surgery are expected to face disruption.

An unidentified woman, who works for the NHS, told the BBC that her husband Neil, who started cancer treatment five weeks ago, was not given an appointment this week because of the strikes.

She said: ‘It’s worrying because he’s been very delayed in being diagnosed in the first place due to the pandemic and cancelled appointments all along.

‘We feel time is of the essence now and we really need to crack on and try to make him more comfortable.’ 

She said that while she had ‘total, utter support’ for the nurses, ‘certain treatments’, including for cancer, should not be delayed. 

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, told The Times: ‘While we respect nurses’ decision to strike, we hope that all necessary steps are taken to ensure that cancer patients don’t miss out on life-saving services and that negotiations will be successful in achieving the right result.

‘Hospitals must ensure that all cancer care is clinically prioritised and the strike must not result in worse prognosis for patients who are already experiencing unacceptably long waits.’

Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, said NHS trusts were ‘pulling out all the stops’ to lessen the impact on patients.

She said: ‘The picture will vary across the country as trust leaders work out service levels with unions locally.

‘But it’s inevitable that some operations or appointments will have to be rescheduled and trusts are pulling out all the stops to minimise disruption.

‘The cold snap has ramped up demand that was already at or close to record levels, but on strike day NHS trusts will do everything they can to ensure that essential services are properly staffed and patient safety, always the number one priority, is safeguarded.’

Several trusts have annonced details of cancelled outpatient appointments and planned treatments.

A minor injury and illness unit in Hertfordshire has been closed due to the nursing strikes. NHS Herts and West Essex ICB today said its Cheshunt facility was not operating and urged patients to use NHS 111 instead. 

Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust said its minor injury unit in Lydney would be operating with reduced staff, while those in Stroud and Tewkesbury would be closed. 

It pointed patients to the NHS website, 111 service and calling the minor injury unit hotline to find out about availability. 

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust announced today that its vaccination clinic has been cancelled, with patients urged to book for tomorrow instead.

The Western Trust in Northern Ireland said it had ‘regrettably taken the decision to cancel some non-emergency services’, with 587 outpatient appointments postponed across Altnagelvin Hospital, Omagh Primary Care and Treatment Centre and South West Acute Hospital.

Some eight planned inpatient and day case procedures have also been cancelled.

The trust said there would also be reduced staffing in community nursing services including rapid response nursing, district nursing, community respiratory nursing and continence services.

In Wales, the Welsh Government said non-urgent or routine appointments are likely to be postponed.

Meanwhile, the Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust, the only specialist hospital trust in the UK dedicated to neurology, neurosurgery, spinal and pain management services, said outpatients and some elective treatments have been postponed or cancelled, but other patients should attend as normal. 

Kettering General Hospital said it will be ‘stepping down some planned services and those patients affected will be contacted directly by our hospital’. 

LEEDS: Nurses stand on a picket line outside the Leeds General Infirmary Hospital

BELFAST: Staff Nurses Dervla Bogner (left) and Christine Turley (right) join members of the RCN on the picket line outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast

BELFAST: Nurses join members of the RCN on the picket line outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast

BELFAST: Nurses join members of the RCN on the picket line outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast

BIRMINGHAM: Members of the Royal College of Nursing staff striking outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham

All money raised will support the charity’s work on cancers affecting children, so that more under-25s can survive with a good quality of life 

The campaign, launched last week, is for more investment in research into childhood cancers 

Don’t fall over on the ice today… you might face even WORSE delays than feared, TV doctor warns as devastating NHS strikes begin

Speaking on Good Morning Britain about the historic action, Dr Hilary Jones urged people to be careful and avoid doing anything which could see them need a trip to understaffed hospitals

The British Medical Association has urged GPs not to support NHS requests to provide cover for striking nurses, warning it would ‘undermine’ the RCN and could harm the wellbeing of GP practice staff.

The BMA’s GP committee said practices were themselves overstretched and providing cover would lead to longer wait times and potentially leave patients at risk.

It comes as the Health Secretary, once described as ‘the invisible man’ for a lack of action in the run-up to the biggest NHS strike in the country’s history, was absent from prime time interviews this morning.

Instead, junior health minister Maria Caulfield — who trained as an NHS nurse— faced the public this morning.

She told BBC Breakfast that while it ‘is difficult’ to live on a nurses wage, the 19 per cent pay demand is unrealistic.

Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting accused Mr Barclay of ‘hiding’ from the consequences of his inability to resolve the nurses’ strike.    

He said: ‘They drove nurses to vote to strike, they refused to negotiate, and they declined the nurses’ offer to suspend the strikes today.

‘They can’t hide from the blame, patients will be in no doubt who has caused the disruption to the health service today.’

The RCN warned it might already be too late to call off the strike planned for next Tuesday.

Nurses strikes in Scotland were this week called off after the RCN accepted a 7.5 per cent pay rise. It will see most staff get a £2,200 rise.

But primary care, mental health and Covid funds were cut to afford the increase.

Ms Cullen told the Today programme: ‘I was part of those discussions in Scotland and the first minister in Scotland insisted on seeing me, which I felt was a major step forward. 

‘We got into a room, had discussions. That was a Friday morning and by Friday evening we had suspended our action in Scotland so we could put to our members a better pay offer.’

Mick Lynch, whose union has brought trains to a standstill this week, last night expressed his support for striking nurses. 

He said: ‘We send our heartfelt solidarity to the nurses and their union on their historic strike tomorrow, along with our heroic postal workers who are striking on issues very similar to our own.’

NHS England said patients should continue to come forward for the care they needed during industrial action, including calling 999 during an emergency. 

Those due to have an operation should attend unless they have been told in advance that it has been cancelled – however, there is no guarantee it will go ahead.

Ambulance staff are due to strike next Wednesday also in a row over pay but Government sources say talks are proving difficult, with union leaders keeping trusts in the dark about how many staff they will allow to work and what type of calls they will respond to.

In other related news… 

The nurses’ strike means 70,000 appointments, procedures and surgeries will be LOST in England, health minister warns as biggest ever NHS walkouts begin today

Out Q&A rounds up everything you need to know about today’s NHS nurses strikes 

Health Secretary Steve Barclay avoids prime-time interviews on day of biggest ever NHS strike 

Which hospitals are striking today? 

England

East Midlands

Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICB

Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Eastern

Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust

Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust

Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust

NHS Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB

Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

London

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust

Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

NHS North Central London ICB

Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

North West

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Found Trust

Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust

The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Found Trust

The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust

Northern

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

South East

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust

South West

Devon Partnership NHS Trust

Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire ICB (BSW Together)

NHS Devon ICB (One Devon)

NHS Gloucestershire ICB (One Gloucestershire)

North Bristol NHS Trust

Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust

West Midlands

Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust

NHS Birmingham and Solihull ICB (BSol ICB)

The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust

Yorkshire & Humber

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust

The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

National employers

Health Education England

NHS England

Northern Ireland

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

Northern Health and Social Care Trust

Western Health and Social Care Trust

Southern Health and Social Care Trust

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council

Business Services Organisation

Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority

Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service

Public Health Agency

Northern Ireland Ambulance Service

Wales

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board

Powys Teaching Local Health Board

Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust Headquarters

Hywel Dda University Health Board

Swansea Bay University Health Board

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board

Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board

Velindre NHS Trust

Public Health Wales

Health Education and Improvement Wales Health Authority

NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership

Digital Health and Care Wales

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