NURSES are striking again today and tomorrow with thousands more Brits set to miss vital appointments and operations.
Walkouts will last a total of 24 hours over two days at 55 NHS hospital trusts in England – up from 44 in December’s action.
The Royal College of Nursing called it a “modest escalation” but last night threatened a “sharp increase” in strikes in February.
Ministers and union bosses are still at loggerheads over pay.
Another ambulance walkout is also set to go ahead on Monday, with no crisis talks scheduled with Whitehall this week.
Pat Cullen, general secretary of the RCN, has urged the Government to meet her “halfway” and agree to serious talks to end worsening strikes.
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Saffron Cordery, of NHS Providers issued a warning and said: “We’re expecting widespread disruption from these strikes, and a much greater impact than the ones before.
“This disruption will be felt on the day as well as in the days that follow.”
December’s walkouts involved 21,508 nurses and 29,576 appointments and operations were cancelled.
This week’s strikes will involve 25 per cent more staff and more hospitals, meaning more patients will suffer.
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The NHS said people should go to appointments as normal unless they are told not to, and still use emergency services.
It comes as the UKHSA also issued an urgent health warning yesterday due to the cold weather.
Pat Cullen said: “Today’s strike action by nursing staff is a modest escalation before a sharp increase in under three weeks’ time.
“People aren’t dying because nurses are striking, nurses are striking because people are dying.
“That is how severe things are in the NHS and it is time the Prime Minister led a fight for its future.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Patients will understandably be worried by the prospect of further strike action by nurses.
“It is inevitable industrial action will have an impact on patients.
“I have had constructive talks with the Royal College of Nursing and other unions about the 2023/24 pay process and look forward to continuing that dialogue.”
Another minister this morning said Brits could not rule out nurses continuing to strike for months.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the discussions were being approached with the 'greatest spirit of reasonableness'.
"We don’t want these strikes to proceed.
"We don’t want the strikes to continue for one day longer than is necessary. We’re asking the unions to call them off because they will be harmful to patients, they will endanger the safety of the public and they will make it much harder to tackle the backlog of cases.”
Brits are still on the side of nurses, according to a poll which found only 30 per cent are against the strikes.
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An Ipsos survey of 1,080 people found 57 per cent of people blame the Government for the ongoing pay row, compared to nine per cent pointing the finger at NHS staff.
Eight in 10 people worry about the impact the strikes are having on health services but 45 per cent support the industrial action.
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