Fury over crippled NHS’s February 6 D-Day: Tory MP fears strike will lead to ‘unnecessary deaths’

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Next month’s biggest ever NHS strike poses ‘obvious risks’ to patients and will lead to ‘unnecessary deaths’, a Tory MP warned today.

Tens of thousands of nurses and paramedics will walk out simultaneously on Feb 6, triggering huge disruption across the ailing health service. Hospitals will be forced into cancelling routine appointments and operations.

Health leaders described the unprecedented joint walkout as ‘hugely concerning.

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Meanwhile, Tory MP Craig MacKinlay said he is ‘extremely concerned’ about the action as ‘undoubtedly’ there will be needless deaths among Brits who are unable to access timely care.

While the most seriously-ill patients and 999 callers have been able to access the service on previous strike days, others have been forced to make their own way to hospital.

Today, NHS leaders are scrambling to put together contingency plans for the coordinated action in just 18 days’ time, while nurses at 55 trusts are striking in England for the fourth time this winter.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) chief executive Pat Cullen joins members on the picket line outside University College Hospital, London on January 19

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) chief executive Pat Cullen joins members on the picket line outside University College Hospital, London on January 19

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) chief executive Pat Cullen joins members on the picket line outside University College Hospital, London on January 19

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) chief executive Pat Cullen joins members on the picket line outside University College Hospital, London on January 19

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Tory MP Craig MacKinlay said he is'extremely concerned' about the action — which will mark the first time both ambulance staff and nurses strike simultaneously — as'undoubtedly' there will be needless deaths among Brits who are unable to access timely care

Tory MP Craig MacKinlay said he is ‘extremely concerned’ about the action — which will mark the first time both ambulance staff and nurses strike simultaneously — as ‘undoubtedly’ there will be needless deaths among Brits who are unable to access timely care

On February 6, it is likely that nurses will once again walk out of A&Es, while some patients who have suffered heart attacks, strokes or falls could be denied an ambulance.

Mr MacKinlay said he is ‘hugely disappointed’ that ambulance workers and nurses have decided to strike on the same day.

The MP for South Thanet, in Kent, said: ‘There are obvious risks to patients and it will undoubtedly lead to unexpected and unnecessary deaths.

‘It has been carefully staged to cause maximum upset and makes the minimum service levels bill passing through parliament that much more essential.’

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Ministers hope the bill will protect the public from walkouts by requiring a certain level of public sector staff to work on strike days — so Brits can still get to work and access the NHS — or face losing their jobs or unions being sued.

Mr MacKinlay added: ‘People enter professions such as nursing and the ambulance service with caring in mind and walking out on strike is not a caring act.

‘It is not too late to stop this and I hope unions can pull back from the brink.’

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said the Government would ‘prefer’ if there was no strikes, especially coordinated action in the NHS.

Asked whether it is responsible for nurses and ambulance staff to all strike on the same day on Sky News, the MP for Surrey Heath said he doesn’t approve of it. 

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But he said the medics ‘do take steps in order to ensure they can look after the most urgency emergency cases’.

And he said the minimum service level bill should provide the public with ‘peace of mind that there will always be an NHS there for them, and indeed other blue light services that they need’.

The coordinated action is expected to force hospitals to cancel thousands of appointments and operations and leave many desperate patients struggling to access emergency care — as has been seen in a wave of NHS strikes this winter.

Unions on Wednesday threatened to continue striking until Easter unless the government caves in to their demands for bigger pay rises. 

Alongside the coordinated action on February 6, the GMB yesterday confirmed ambulance staff would strike on February 20, March 6 and March 20. 

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The union called on ministers to ‘talk pay now’ and warned a ‘proper pay offer’ is the ‘only way’ to resolve the ongoing dispute. It claimed the ‘cold, dead hands of No 10 and 11 Downing Street’ are stopping negotiations. 

Meanwhile, the nurses’ strikes, coordinated by the Royal College of Nursing, will also take place on February 7. It will mark the sixth day of walkouts this winter, following on from two days in December and walkouts on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

This calendar shows the number of NHS staff groups with planned strike dates in the coming months. Nurses are on strike today and tomorrow, then return to the picket lines on February 6 and 7. The next ambulance strike is on January 23, and then again on February 6 and 20 and then repeated o March 6 and 20. NHS physiotherapists hold their first strike action on January 26 and then again on February 9

This calendar shows the number of NHS staff groups with planned strike dates in the coming months. Nurses are on strike today and tomorrow, then return to the picket lines on February 6 and 7. The next ambulance strike is on January 23, and then again on February 6 and 20 and then repeated o March 6 and 20. NHS physiotherapists hold their first strike action on January 26 and then again on February 9

An 18.4 per cent pay rise ¿ based on the current rate of inflation ¿ would see the average nurses' salary go from £37,000 to £43,800 (red bar). Meeting halfway would see it increase to £40,400 (purple bar). The Government has insisted its offer of around 4 per cent, or £1,400, is all it can afford at present (blue bar)

An 18.4 per cent pay rise — based on the current rate of inflation — would see the average nurses’ salary go from £37,000 to £43,800 (red bar). Meeting halfway would see it increase to £40,400 (purple bar). The Government has insisted its offer of around 4 per cent, or £1,400, is all it can afford at present (blue bar) 

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NHS nurses: A workforce where women outnumber men by a significant margin but a significant number are approaching retirement or seeking a better work-life balance. Pay is the central issue at the heart of the strikes , with the average nurse earing £37,000. This estimate includes both new graduates, which start on £27,055, and very senior nurses who earn much more

NHS nurses: A workforce where women outnumber men by a significant margin but a significant number are approaching retirement or seeking a better work-life balance. Pay is the central issue at the heart of the strikes , with the average nurse earing £37,000. This estimate includes both new graduates, which start on £27,055, and very senior nurses who earn much more

NHS data shows that about 45,000 nursing posts in England are vacant as of the end of June. London has highest percentage missing, with 15 per cent of nursing posts unfilled

NHS data shows that about 45,000 nursing posts in England are vacant as of the end of June. London has highest percentage missing, with 15 per cent of nursing posts unfilled

The RCN is calling for an 18.4 per cent pay rise — based on the current rate of inflation — would see the average nurses’ salary go from £37,000 to £43,800.

But the union has repeatedly said it would meet ministers in the middle — which would see the average salary increase to £40,400.

The Government has insisted its offer of around four per cent, or £1,400, is all it can afford. The deal, awarded last year, was backed by the NHS Pay Review Body.

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Health Secretary warned a 10 per cent pay rise is ‘unaffordable’ and would take £3.6billion away from ‘essential’ NHS services where investment is needed to tackle the backlog of more than 7million people in England. 

Pat Cullen, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said on Wednesday that nurses feel ‘totally heartbroken’ at going on strike, but have no choice.

She urged the Government to get back around the table to ‘resolve this dispute’ but said no talks are currently scheduled.

NHS chiefs have already begun to make contingency plans for February 6.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘Health leaders will now be intensifying plans and preparations for the combined strike of nurses and ambulance workers next month, which will pose a more significant challenge to services than the industrial action we have seen to date.’

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It is unclear what these plans will involve. But mitigation measures used so far include bringing in the Army to drive ambulances and hospitals asking visitors to ease pressures, such as by helping them feed their loved ones at mealtimes.

Commenting on the combined strike action, Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of the NHS Providers organisation, said: ‘Trusts have been warning for months that coordinated strikes were a possibility if the Government and unions failed to reach an early agreement on this year’s pay award.

‘The prospect of ambulance workers and nurses striking on the same day is a huge concern.

‘It could be the biggest day of industrial action the NHS has ever seen.

‘Nobody in the NHS wants more strikes, including staff joining picket lines.

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‘Trust leaders understand why overstretched staff have reached this point amid chronic staff shortages and ever-growing demand and pressure.

‘We need ministers to get round the table with the unions urgently to deal with the key issue of pay for this financial year, otherwise there is no light at the end of the tunnel.’

Meanwhile, thousands of nurses have taken to picket lines today in the ongoing dispute over pay and working conditions.

Tens of thousands of operations and appointments are expected to be cancelled due to the strike action on Wednesday and Thursday. 

Almost 30,000 needed to be rescheduled following December’s nurse strikes.  

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