Anneliese Dodds has described the news that nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will strike for two days next month as an indication of “gross negligence on the part of the Conservative government”.
Commenting after the Royal College of Nursing announced strikes on December 15th and 20th next month, in what is set to be the biggest walkout in the NHS’s history, the Chair of the Labour Party said today is a “very, very sad day”.
“This is a sign of gross negligence on the part of the Conservative government. The last Health Secretary who had proper discussions with the RCN was Sajid Javid. We’ve had three Health Secretaries since then,” she told Sky News.
“We know that this was on the agenda for the nurses since the summer. We didn’t see meetings taking place with the RCN over the summer and you know I don’t blame nurses for saying a situation where they’re understaffed, overworked and burnt out isn’t acceptable but this is going to be hugely disruptive for patients.
“You know, already so many [are] waiting for treatment and if Labour were in government we wouldn’t be ignoring the nurses as Conservatives seem to have done for so long now. We would be sitting down with them.
“We’d also be sorting out those enormous staffing issues as well and we would do that by scrapping that non-dom tax loophole and getting the money into the NHS and relieving the pressure.”
The RCN has said it was given no choice but to take industrial action after ministers refused to reopen discussions over the pay offer put to nurses. The government has argued that the pay request from the body is unaffordable.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said this morning that “ministers have chosen strike action” and said nursing staff have “had enough of being taken for granted, enough of low pay and unsafe staffing levels, enough of not being able to give our patients the care they deserve”.
Asked whether she supports the nurses taking strike action, Dodds told Sky News viewers this morning: “No one supports strikes. Strikes indicate that negotiations haven’t taken place.” She added that it was “wrong” that nurses have been “driven to this stage”.
Under trade union legislation, the RCN will still be required to ensure life-preserving care throughout the strikes meaning that urgent cancer services, urgent tests and scans and ongoing care for vulnerable patients will be protected alongside A&E and intensive care.
Commenting after the dates were announced, Wes Streeting asked why the government is “refusing to negotiate with nurses”. He highlighted that “patients already can’t get treated on time”, adding: “Strike action is the last thing they need, yet the government is letting this happen.
“First, the government refused to speak to the health unions all summer, now they refuse to negotiate. If the Conservatives have given up governing, they should stand aside for Labour. There were no strikes in the NHS during the 13 years of the last Labour government, and the cavalry is coming with the next Labour government.
“We will abolish non-doms to launch the biggest expansion of medical training in history, giving the NHS the staff it needs so that nurses aren’t overworked and patients are seen on time.”