Welsh Government must resolve nurses strike without additional UK Government help says Royal College of Nursing
The Royal College of Nursing has said that the Welsh Government must find a way to resolve the strike action without any further additional financial help from the UK Government.
So far in Wales no negotiations have taken place between the RCN union and Welsh government, with First Minister Mark Drakeford and Health Minister Eluned Morgan saying that there is “no money” for a pay rise.
They have called on the UK Government to pay nurses extra which would then ensure that Wales receives more money to do so as a population share of England’s spending.
But Helen Whyley, Royal College of Nursing Wales director, said that “NHS Wales pay is a Welsh Government decision. Health care services are devolved.”
Her plea came on the day of the second nursing strike across Wales, England and Northern Ireland.
She added: “The First Minister has said in the past he believes in devolution because it allows Welsh solutions to Welsh problems. This is Mark Drakeford government’s opportunity to do just that.
“I am calling on the Welsh Government to make a genuine commitment to improving the current pay award and to meet with the Royal College of Nursing to resolve this dispute. The Welsh Government must find a way forward with or without additional funding from the UK Government.
“Nursing staff have endured years of real term pay cuts which has led to frightening levels of understaffing. This has a significant impact on patient care and why this dispute is about pay and safe nurse staffing levels.
“The nursing workforce is fundamental to the provision of NHS services to the people of Wales. Hospitals, beds, and equipment are nothing without qualified and skilled staff to care for patients.
“As we approach the end of 2022 and a New Year it is bitterly disappointing that the Royal College of Nursing is being forced to consider announcing further strike dates.
“I urge the First Minister to respond to positively to my letter inviting talks.”
Speaking to BBC Politics Wales over the weekend, Mark Drakeford said that the sum of money the Welsh Government received for public services and pay was “a consequence of the decisions” made for England by ministers there.
“We do not have the money to be able to increase our pay offer, while the UK Government refuses to put more money into the pay bill in England,” he said.
“That’s just the way the system works.
“We can only be accountable for the decisions that genuinely lie in our hands. And we should be held accountable.”
Around a quarter of hospitals and community teams in England are taking part in the strike, alongside all trusts in Northern Ireland and all but one health board in Wales.
Speaking ahead of the strike, RCN chief executive Pat Cullen said: “The Prime Minister should ask himself what is motivating nursing staff to stand outside their hospitals for a second day so close to Christmas.
“They are prepared to sacrifice a day’s pay to have their concerns heard. Their determination stems as much from worries over patient safety and the future of the NHS than personal hardship.
“Rishi Sunak is under growing pressure in Westminster following last Thursday’s strike and he should listen to people around him.
“The public is increasingly with their local nursing staff and this Government desperately needs to get on the right side of them. It is unprecedented for my members to strike.
“Let’s get this wrapped up by Christmas. I will negotiate with him at any point to stop nursing staff and patients going into the new year facing such uncertainty.
“But if this Government isn’t prepared to do the right thing, we’ll have no choice but to continue in January and that will be deeply regrettable.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “The RCN’s demands are unaffordable during these challenging times and would take money away from frontline services while they are still recovering from the impact of the pandemic. I’m open to engaging with the unions on how to make the NHS a better place to work.”
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