Nurse strike paused for ‘intensive talks’ with health secretary

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Strikes had been scheduled to take place across England. Rachel Younger has the latest

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has put its strike plans on pause after the government agreed it would enter “intensive talks” on pay with the union.

The RCN and the government issued a joint statement saying that the talks would focus on “pay, terms and conditions, and productivity enhancing reforms”.Strikes had been set to take place across England from March 1 to March 3, but Health Secretary Steve Barclay is now due to meet with RCN representatives on Wednesday.A joint statement from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the RCN said: “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 to begin talks. The Royal College of Nursing will pause strike action during these talks.”

RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen has said she is confident about reaching an agreement over pay for nurses.she told broadcadsters that now is the time to “concentrate” on the upcoming talks, which she wants to enter “in good faith”.

‘We will make sure that no stone is left unturned,’ Pat Cullen said of the negotations

“Lets just now concentrate on those talks and make sure that we can bring those to a positive conclusion for every single nurse that has stood on those picket lines for the past three months,” Ms Cullen said.

“The prime minister has now got the table prepared – we will be there and we will enter those negotations in good faith as soon as they start.”the next industrial action pencilled in for nurses was on March 1 when they had planned to strike continuously for 48 hours.The action would have also included nursing staff from emergency departments, intensive care units, cancer care and other services that were previously exempted.it comes as the department submitted its evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body for the 2023/24 financial year.

Is this a breakthrough or just a break in hostilities? ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana explains

Officials said 3.5% pay rise for staff would be affordable for the UK government.

“Through the current financial settlement provided by HM Treasury to the department and reprioritisation decisions, funding is available for pay awards up to 3.5%,” the Department said in its submission document.“Pay awards above this level would require trade-offs for public service delivery or further government borrowing at a time when headroom against fiscal rules is historically low and sustainable public finances are vital in the fight against inflation.”The NHS Pay Review Body is responsible for making recommendations on the pay of more than one million NHS staff paid under the Agenda for Change contract.Their recommendations cover all staff employed in the NHS across the UK, but they do not make recommendations on the pay for doctors, dentists and very senior managers.A similar recommendation has been made for doctors and dentists.

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