Health Secretary Steve Barclay Accused Of Swerving Striking Nurses On Hospital Visit

Thousands of nurses across the country walked out today in the dispute over pay and conditions.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay
Health Secretary Steve Barclay
Sky News

The health secretary has been accused of swerving striking nurses by visiting a hospital where there is not a picket line.

Steve Barclay visited Chelsea and Westminster hospital on Thursday morning on the first day of historic strike action by NHS nurses.

He was there to observe how they were coping with the ongoing strike and to meet staff and patients.

However, he did not have to encounter striking nurses because the London trust did not meet the threshold for strike action.

Nurses are striking at other hospitals across the capital including at St Thomas’s hospital which is directly opposite the House of Commons.

Pat Cullen, Royal College of Nursing’s general secretary and chief executive, said: “The health secretary missed an opportunity today to get out of his warm office, put his coat on and get down to see nurses on our picket lines.

“I, on the other hand, did not. On my visits to our picket lines in London, Reading, Bristol and Cardiff I was struck by the strength of nurses’ feeling and their determination to do right for their patients.

“They’ve had enough of not being able to give their patients the care they deserve due to chronic underfunding of nursing over many years which has left care dangerously understaffed.

“On Tuesday, Mr Barclay will have another opportunity to hear from nursing staff directly why they deserve fair pay – I suggest he takes it.”

A health secretary source told HuffPost UK: “Steve visited and met staff at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital today, one of the overwhelming majority of hospitals where RCN members were not striking.

“He is hugely grateful for the hard work of nurses and all NHS staff. Strikes are in no one’s interests, least of all patients.

“His door remains open to the unions to discuss how to make the NHS a better place to work and how to deliver the care that patients need.”

Thousands of nurses across the country walked out today in the dispute over pay and conditions.

The RCN has tabled a pay demand of around 19%, while the government has offered around 4%.

This morning, No.10 again rejected the RCN’s calls to ask the pay review board to rethink its recommended pay rise – which was made before inflation soared.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “Certainly no plans to tell the independent body what to do.”

He claimed a 1% pay rise for all NHS staff except doctors, dentists and very senior managers would cost £700 million.

He also claimed a double-digit pay rises across the board for public sector workers would cost £28 billion, which he said “could be inflationary” and would have to come from higher taxation or borrowing.

“The government does not think those sorts of sums are affordable in the current circumstances,” he said.


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