PMQs: Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer clash over nurses' strikes
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The strikes by NHS workers in England and Wales has seen health bosses warn that they “cannot guarantee patient safety” during the walk outs. Brits are being warned to use emergency NHS services “wisely” and only calling 999 when there is a life-threatening emergency.
In the Telegraph, the Health Secretary stated that the unions and the striking NHS workers are consciously “inflicting harm on patients”.
Mr Barclay wrote: “We now know that the NHS contingency plans will not cover all 999 calls.
“Ambulance unions have made a conscious choice to inflict harm on patients.”
Mr Barclay added that contingency planning for the complications of the strike action is “almost impossible” despite unions saying it is the stubbornness of the Government causing the strikes.
The Health Secretary’s comments infuriated the striking workers and the unions as workers take their first strike action in over 30 years in an attempt to rescue the NHS.
Rachel Harrison from GMB Union said: “Ambulance workers are seething at such a crude, insulting attempt to divert attention from the Government’s continued chaos in the NHS.”
Unite union argued that the Government had the choice to end the strikes but “chose not to”.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea added: “If anyone is responsible for things that happen it is the Government who have steadfastly refused to talk to us about anything related to pay.”
Speaking to the Mirror from the picket line in Coventry, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said that the health secretary’s comments were “a blatant lie”.
Ms Graham said: “The Government has had months to intervene. They chose not to.
“They have abdicated all responsibility. They’re effectively saying this has got nothing to do with us. And the strikers are wrong.”
Unions are demanding a 19 percent pay rise to reflect soaring inflation and the demands on NHS workers.
While a number of Conservative ministers are demanding talks to be brought back in order to settle the increasing wave of strike action across the public sector, the Prime Minister refused to back down.
Speaking to the Liaison Committee made up of senior MPs, Mr Sunak said: “I’ve acknowledged it is difficult for everybody, because inflation is where it is.
“The best way to help them and help everyone else in the country is for us to get a grip and reduce inflation as quickly as possible.”
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Though a number of MPs are open to negotiations of a pay increase below the 19 percent, others have warned that if Sunak steps back, future strikes will be encouraged.
One former minister told the BBC: “Give in to one group then the whole lot will cascade around him.”
Ms Graham stated: “It makes it a total mockery of what NHS workers have done to protect the country over Covid, the time spent clapping for our workers.
“When the worst of Covid was over, these workers thought they would be treated with respect, but the Government told them, ‘Thanks for that, but the profiteering companies will get our respect, not you. You’re not even worth a pay rise.’
“That is how little they think of them.”
Express.co.uk has contacted Downing Street for comment.
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