Nurses strike at St George’s Hospital: ‘We were appreciated in the we’re ignored’

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Nurses at St George’s Hospital in Tooting joined what is billed as the biggest day of NHS strike action in history.

Nurses and ambulance staff in London walked out out today, joining what could be the biggest strike action in NHS history.

Medical staff are calling for better pay and conditions, joining workers across industries in widespread action over the past few months.

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The unions have said life-preserving treatment will remain in place, but that category 2 calls, which can include heart attacks and strokes, will be assessed and only responded to if there was “risk to life and limb”.

Health secretary Steve Barclay has insisted he is “engaging” with unions, but on Sunday Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said neither Prime Minister Rishi Sunak nor Mr Barclay are prepared to discuss pay. She told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme that Barclay “is not telling the truth” when he says there is dialogue.

St George’s

At St George’s Hospital, Tooting, intensive care nurse Caroline told “I love my profession and at the moment things are not going very well. Staff are leaving by the droves, we’re not paid enough, we’re looking after more and more patients, we’re not supported. So I’ve taken a strike day today just to prove to the government that I’m not willing to do it anymore.”

She added: “There are not enough nurses to look after our patients and until the pay rises, we won’t get the staff. Push the pay up and people will join the profession. It’s a lovely profession.”

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Senior nurse Charmaine said: “It’s not just about the pay, but that would help. It’s also about patient safety, conditions. We’ve been working really hard. We worked through the Covid [pandemic], we were appreciated in the Covid, and now that we want some remuneration for that, people are being ignored.

“We’ve got healthcare assistants here and their wages are not above the living wage, and some of them are going to food banks. For them to become nurses we need them to have a fair wage.”

Nurses’ union

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) confirmed that members would be walking out on February 6 and 7 as they remain in a pay dispute with the government. Around 300,000 nurses in the UK - about two thirds of the workforce - are members of the union.

The strike action was expected to affect more than a third of English health boards.

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Ambulance staff

Unite confirmed that ambulance staff would join nurses in taking industrial action on February. GMB members will joined the picket line in some areas.

What NHS cover will be provided on strike days?

Unison head of health Sara Gorton, during strikes last month, said all the services involved had emergency cover which, “as a rule of thumb”, saw all life-threatening incidents (category 1 calls) responded to. Category 2 calls, which can include heart attacks and strokes, would be assessed and if there was “risk to life and limb” ambulance staff would leave picket lines to respond.

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