Politics news - latest: Biggest NHS walkout in history as nurses and ambulance workers go on strike (2023)

Key points
  • Who is striking today as NHS hit with huge disruption
  • Nursing union leader calls on PM to intervene as biggest NHS walkout in history begins
  • Who is taking industrial action in 2023 and when?


NHS leaders 'particularly worried' about people not coming forward for treatment amid strikes

NHS leaders say they are "particularly worried" about people not coming forward for emergency treatment today as ambulance workers and nurses go on strike.

The deputy CEO of NHS providers Saffron Cordery was speaking to Sky News this morning.

She encouraged people to call 999 or 111 in the same way they would on a non-strike day.

Ms Cordery said that routine procedures which are cancelled or delayed would have a "knock-on" effect on the health service - as people having procedures delayed will likely suffer.


Dominic Raab 'known for his robustness' as former cabinet minister acknowledges 'disagreement'

A former cabinet minister has said that Dominic Raab is "known for his robustness" as he acknowledged a "disagreement" with the deputy prime minister.

It was reported in The Times this morning that Mr Raab fell out with Sir Robert Buckland last year during the first Conservative leadership race.

The falling out centred on an article Sir Robert planned to write criticising Mr Raab's British bill of rights.

According to The Times, Mr Raab told Sir Robert that he would have to resign or be sacked if he went ahead with the article.

Speaking to LBC this morning, Sir Robert said: "I don't want to rake back through the coals of what happened last summer.

"Dominic and I have a disagreement about his bill of rights, clearly he wasn't going to agree with the article that I did write in the Telegraph.

"I was talking about the government to come – that is the government post-Boris Johnson, and felt that it was entirely appropriate to do that.

"There are robust disagreements in politics. I'm old enough and ugly enough to hold my own corner, and Dominic is known for his robustness as well. There was a disagreement, but we've moved on.

"I very much hope that the bill of rights is radically reformed, by the way, and that we have a more measured set of reforms, and that debate will carry on."

Mr Raab is currently being investigated over bullying allegations, although there is nothing to suggest this incident was considered in this light.


Government 'not going to look at the current year's pay award' for nurses - minister

The government is continuing to refuse to negotiate with nursing unions over the pay offer for the 2022-23 financial year.

It comes as nurses in England start a two-day strike today - with ambulance workers also taking action today.

They want a new pay offer for the current year amid soaring inflation.

The government says that a higher offer would not be affordable, and is only willing to talk about the award for the next financial year.

Maria Caulfield, a health minister who is also a nurse, told Sky News: "We've been pretty clear that we're not going to look at the current year's pay award that was agreed in April by the unions and by the government [who] accepted the pay recommendation in full.

"We really want to focus on the forthcoming pay award as they're doing in Scotland which will recognise a number of issues such as inflation, recruitment and retention - that's factored into the pay review bodies recommendations."

According to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union, action was called off in Scotland as there was a commitment to an additional payment for the first three months of 2023.

And action in Wales was also been called off after an improvement to the 2022-23 pay offer was made.

These proposals will be put to the members to see if they want to call off the strikes.

Ms Caulfield says that the government has to negotiate with the whole public sector, and a 1% pay rise is equivalent to £700m of costs to the taxpayer.

Asked if patients were at risk, the minister said there was a "risk to patients the longer strikes go on" as routine procedures get pushed back continuously.

And she said that ambulance strikes "increase someone's risk" if they have an emergency.


More than £1bn spent maintaining hospitals last year

More than £1bn was spent maintaining hospitals in England last year, new figures have revealed.

The NHS's annual Estates Returns Information Collection showed that £1,013,000,000 was spent in the 2021-22 financial year.

This compares to £987m the year before, and £890m in 2017-18.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting criticised the government, highlighting the 2019 pledge from the Conservatives to build 40 new hospitals.

The Liberal Democrats have obtained data which they say shows that only 10 of the 40 new hospitals have been granted planning permission to start work.

Mr Streeting said: "Rishi Sunak appears to have ditched the 40 new hospitals pledge, adding one more failure to the Conservatives' record of overpromising and underdelivering.

"The Conservatives literally didn't fix the hospital roof when the sun was shining and now the NHS is crumbling.

"Patients are paying the price for the Conservatives' failure with longer waits, while taxpayers are paying more but getting less thanks to delays."

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "We have invested record sums to upgrade NHS buildings and facilities, so that trusts can continue to provide the best possible quality of care.

"We have committed to eradicate RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) from the NHS estate by 2035 and are protecting patient and staff safety in the interim period, including investing over £685m to directly address urgent risks.

"We have invested £3.7bn for the first four years of the New Hospital Programme and remain committed to all schemes that have been announced as part of it.

"We continue to work closely with trusts on their plans for new hospitals and are working through the recommendations for individual schemes."


Strikes: Who is taking industrial action in 2023 and when?

Tens of thousands of workers are striking in the coming months over pay and conditions as a winter of industrial action continues.

1 February saw the UK's biggest day of industrial action in more than a decade as teachers, university staff, train drivers, civil servants, bus drivers and security guards all went on strike.

But more workers over the coming months have agreed on industrial action as the government insists it cannot give them inflation-matching pay rises.

2022 ended in a series of strikes, including the largest NHS action in history and the biggest walkout of ambulance staff in three decades.

Sky News looks at which industries are set to strike, when and why.


Nursing union leader calls on Sunak to intervene as biggest NHS walkout in history begins

By news correspondent Adele Robinson

A nursing union leader is calling on the prime minister to intervene as the biggest NHS walkout in history gets under way.

Royal College of Nursing's director for England, Patricia Marquis, told Sky News that so far there has been no "direct contact" with Rishi Sunak despite four previous strike days.

She said: "It's a cry out to Rishi Sunak to come to the table to seek a resolution. So far we've not had direct contact with him, all of our efforts have been through the secretary of state for health. And those have not really brought us any solutions.

"So really, now, we don't want the strikes to go ahead... and we're really calling on the prime minister to intervene, to come to the table and seek a resolution with us."

Today sees tens of thousands of NHS workers including nurses in England, and GMB union ambulance workers in England and Wales, taking industrial action in a dispute over pay and conditions.


Who is striking today as NHS hit by massive industrial action?

The NHS is facing huge disruption today as tens of thousands of nurses and ambulance staff in England walk out.

It comes as part of the long-running dispute over pay.

Ambulance workers will be striking in the West Midlands, the North East, the East Midlands and the North West.

Further action will be taking place in London, Yorkshire, the South West, North East and North West later this week.

Nurses at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) are today starting on a two-day strike.

This will include members of the union in the East Midlands, London, the North West, South East, South West, West Midlands, Yorkshire & Humber and the North.

You can find a full list of the dozens of trusts taking action here.

Strikes were also set to take place in Wales, but these were called off following a new pay offer from the Labour-led administration.

The RCN's general secretary Pat Cullen and Unite the Union's general secretary Sharon Graham will be talking to Sky News after 8am


Good morning

Welcome back to the Politics Hub.

Here is what happened over the weekend, to get you up to speed:

  • Liz Truss authored an essay in The Sunday Telegraph in which she sought to blame the "economic establishment" for her downfall, claiming her "mandate" was not respected;
  • Business Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News that Ms Truss did not "deal" with "big structural issues" first;
  • Mr Shapps said Ofgem had "wool pulled over their eyes" over the prepaid meter scandal;
  • He also said that ambulance strikes risk putting "lives at risk";
  • A former Conservative Party chairman said that Dominic Raab should be suspended while he is investigated over bullying allegations.

Coming up this morning on Sky News:

  • 7.20am: Health Minster Maria Caulfield;
  • 8.05am: Shadow employment minister Alison McGovern;
  • 8.20am: General secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, Pat Cullen;
  • 8.35am: General secretary of Unite the Union, Sharon Graham.


That's all for today

That's all for our politics coverage today.

We'll be back tomorrow with the latest.


'This isn't a fight Number 10 can risk having too aggressively'

Sky's deputy political editor Sam Coates has offered his analysis following the comments made by Grant Shapps this morning.

Speaking on Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, he says: "It was quite tepid in terms of hitting back and defending or attacking Liz Truss in the way that she attacked the prime minister."

He says in early October Mr Shapps was "at the forefront" of "laying in to MsTruss".

"But this is the same guy that sort of has very this morning done a 'on the one hand on the other' attempt to deal with Liz Truss," he says.

"And that's because the divisions that we talk about every week in the Conservative Party can't go away and it's very much still there."

Sam says Ms Truss now has "more fuel in the can" and she "still has some fans in the Tory Party".

"This isn't a fight Number 10 can risk having too aggressively," he says.

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