Britain’s National Health Service Paralysed
With the largest strike in the history of the British health service National Health Service (NHS), nurses in the UK are demonstrating for better salaries and fair working conditions. Tens of thousands of employees, including emergency staff, will lay down their jobs by Tuesday. Criticism comes from the government, but according to the unions, essential services are guaranteed.
The strike is about a lot of money: The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) professional association demands a wage increase well above the inflation rate of just over ten per cent recently. But the government has refused to sit down with the RCN since the strike began. A sharp increase in wages would drive up consumer prices too much and would therefore not be sustainable, they say.
There is also criticism of the strike’s timing: Health Secretary Steve Barclay referred to millions whose routine surgeries are now falling by the wayside. Emergency treatments would also take significantly longer than planned due to the strike. In addition, the healthcare system is still in the process of recovering from the corona pandemic, so the strike is harming the patients.
Nurse and RCN Secretary-General Pat Cullen wrote to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in a personal letter: “Please address this impasse. I have made it clear that opening negotiations and making meaningful offers can avert strikes.”
The coordinated work stoppage is taking place on an unprecedented scale. As many as 73 of the approximately 220 NHS trusts are out of service, compared with 55 in January and 44 in December last year. A trust describes an organisational unit of the NHS and is either responsible for the care of a specific geographic area or a medical speciality.
Meanwhile, the government wants to massively restrict the right to strike for several professional groups with a controversial law and thus ensure basic services in the event of a strike, for example, in the case of emergency services.