Rishi Sunak Set For Major U-Turn On Nurses' Pay In Bid To End Strikes

The government could offer one-off payments to break the deadlock.
HENRY NICHOLLS via Getty Images

Downing Street has indicated Rishi Sunak could perform a U-turn on his refusal to offer nurses extra pay for this year.

Ministers are holding a series of meetings on Monday aimed at ending a wave of industrial unrest in the NHS and on the rail network.

The prime minister’s spokesperson said the government was “willing to listen” to union demands.

And No.10 did not rule out offering a one-off payment to help NHS staff deal with the soaring cost of living.

“I’m not going to get into more details about what may or may not be raised in these meetings,” the spokesperson said.

The government has previously insisted would only negotiate on pay rises for the year 2023/24 from April.

But the spokesperson suggested the talks would also include changes to the current settlement for 2022/23.

Asked if the government was willing to offer extra “financial help” to nurses, the spokesperson said: “We are willing to listen to unions if they want to put forward what they believe is fair and reasonable in this area.

“The prime minister has said we are happy to listen to those concerns and discuss what is responsible and affordable for the country.”

Speaking earlier on Monday, Sunak told broadcasters he would not comment on the “specifics” of talks being held with unions.

But following talks with health secretary Steve Barclay, Unite negotiator Onay Kasab said the government told the union they would need to “justify” a payment through productivity, branding the negotiations an “insult”.

He said there had been no “detailed” discussion of what a pay settlement might look like, adding that the talks had left him “very angry”.


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