Nurses have agreed to pause their historic strike action as “intensive talks” with the government begin.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the Government issued a joint statement saying that the talks would focus on “pay, terms and conditions, and productivity enhancing reforms,” after the union began major strikes in a bitter ongoing dispute.
The statement went on to promise that talks would recognize the “vital role that nurses and nursing play in the National Health Service”, as well as “the wider economic pressures facing the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister’s priority to halve inflation.”
The next industrial action penciled in for nurses was on March 1, when they had planned to strike continuously for 48 hours.
The Royal College of Nursing has agreed to pause strike action while talks are active.
The talks come after months of walkouts and repeated calls from nursing union leaders for ministers to open discussions over NHS staff salaries.
The suspended strike next month would see 100 trusts taking part across the country as well as all departments, including critical care units, being allowed to strike.
This strike would include, for the first time, A&E, intensive care units and cancer care staff walking out.
The decision to enter talks represents a climbdown for Rishi Sunak, who has repeatedly insisted nurses’ pleas for more pay were “unaffordable” and that he did not have a “magic wand” to raise wages.
An economic report this morning also found the UK government had achieved an unexpected surplus from taxation this month – with economist Julian Jessop telling Express.co.uk this had “weakened” the government’s argument that they could not afford public sector rises.
The additional talks also come the day after the British Medical Association (BMA) confirmed tens of thousands of junior doctors in England will stage a 72-hour walkout in March following ongoing disputes over pay and working hours – considered to be a dramatic escalation in the ongoing dispute.
The BMA announced more than 98 percent of junior doctors voted in favor of striking, with its chair, Dr Philip Banfield, warning Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Steve Barclay were “standing on the precipice of an historic mistake”.
The announcement that talks are going ahead comes as a huge breakthrough, after RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said last week that there had been “no communication” with Mr Barclay during the past month.
The Department for Education has also shown movement on engaging in discussions about pay after refusing to budge on teachers’ demands.
A DfE spokesperson said: “The Education Secretary has written to teaching unions inviting them to build on the constructive discussions that have already taken place and move into formal talks on pay, conditions and reform.
“Our hope is that we can find a fair and reasonable settlement that recognizes the vital role teachers play, while acknowledging the wider economic pressures facing the country and the government’s priority to halve inflation.
“A condition of these talks will be that the National Education Union calls off next week’s strike action.”
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