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
  • Patients facing 'hugely disrupted' day - as NHS leaders fear people will not come forward for treatment
  • English nurses 'being punished and left behind by Rishi Sunak' - union leader
  • Who is taking industrial action in 2023 and when?
  • Live reporting by Tim Baker


'Patients are sick, we are tired': NHS staff on the picket lines this morning

Here's the latest images from the picket lines in Birmingham and London, where nurses and ambulance workers are demanding pay improvements.

One sign being held up reads "clap no more Rishi, dish the dosh", while another says "patients are sick, we are tired".


Government needs to 'stop the politicking' and start negotiating - union leader

A union leader has called for the government to "stop the politicking" and begin negotiating on pay.

Sharon Graham was speaking to Sky News this morning. She is the general secretary of the Unite union, which has members involved in today's ambulance worker strike.

She said: "I think it's really important for your viewers to know that throughout all of these disputes, the months that I've been talking to you, we have not had one single meeting on pay with the government, on the pay round that we're talking about with the government.

"They need to stop the politicking, get round the table.

"Let's get this deal done. Put it out to the members and everybody can go back to work."

Ms Graham laid the blame for the lack of progress at Rishi Sunak's feet, saying he is "effectively a CEO who refuses to come to the table and appears to not want a resolution".

She also accused Business Secretary Grant Shapps of "lying" by saying that ambulances did not provide life and limb cover during the strikes.


English nurses 'being punished and left behind by Rishi Sunak' - union leader

English nurses are being "punished and left behind by Rishi Sunak", according to the leader of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Pat Cullen, the general secretary of the RCN, said she was available to negotiate with the prime minister today.

She said that tomorrow's strike could be averted if Mr Sunak made an offer to her today.

Ms Cullen said: "This government under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has turned its back on these nurses.

"In fact, if you look at what's happened across England and compare it to Scotland and Wales, where both governments have got to the table and started to negotiate... it can only be described that the nurses in England now are being punished and left behind by Rishi Sunak and this government."

Ms Cullen said her nurses will not do anything "reckless" when it comes to patients, and are ensuring that emergency and cancer care can continue.


'Negotiation' only way to solve strikes, says Labour

Labour says "negotiation" is the only way to solve the current strikes in the health service.

Nurses and ambulance workers are both taking action today in the biggest strike to ever hit the NHS.

Shadow employment minister Alison McGovern was asked for the way to fix the industrial action.

"Negotiation," she told Sky News.

"We need to get people around the table and find a deal and you know, I've heard Pat Cullen and others from the Royal College of Nursing and other trade union leaders asking for that very thing.

"And if Labour were in government that's what we would be doing, we would be talking and finding a deal.

"That's the only way that industrial action is ever brought to an end."

But the opposition party did not say what it would offer healthcare workers who are calling for pay rises close to inflation, despite repeated calls to do so.

Yesterday, shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds told Sky News that Labour would not be able to offer a double-digit raise.


NHS leaders 'particularly worried' about people not coming forward for treatment as health service facing 'hugely disrupted day'

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

Deputy chief executive of NHS providers Saffron Cordery, speaking to Sky News, encouraged people to call 999 or 111 in the same way they would on a non-strike day.

However, she acknowledged that today will be a "hugely disrupted day" across the NHS.

"With both nurses and ambulance staff out on strike today, and nurses again tomorrow and we've got physiotherapist later in the week and some ambulance staff again on Friday, we're planning for an incredibly disrupted week," she said.

Ms Cordery explained that while nursing staff had been able to "plug the gaps" during previous ambulance strikes, both are out on the picket lines today.

The NHS will provide emergency cover but there will be an impact on patients, she said.

"Of course emergency departments will be open providing that care when people are in extreme crisis, but what what they won't be getting through is any kind of backlog recovery - so if people are phoning up for usual appointments, if they are seeking to gain ongoing care, they won't have access to that," she said.

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.

Asked about cancer care, she added: "What we are seeing here is a situation where we have different arrangements in place in different parts of the country, and it's possible that some types of cancer care will come into into that, so cancer care won't be exempted from from the strike action."


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 Adele Robinson, news correspondent

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.

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