Current health secretary Steve Barclay has contacted six unions to get them around a table to "discuss workforce issues" in a bid to try to avoid upcoming strike action by their members.
He invited the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Unite, Unison and the GMB to the Department of Health and Social Care on Tuesday 15 November.
It seems unlikely that any common ground will be found at the meeting, given how far apart the parties are. The government has offered one million NHS staff a pay rise of at last £1,400 for 2022-23 which is arise of around 4% to 5%.
The union members are planning to strike unless staff are given a pay rise which at least equals inflation, currently around 10.1%. Barclay described the RCN's demand that staff get a pay rise that is 5% above inflation as "neither reasonable nor affordable".
A union official told The Guardian: “We’re not hugely hopeful. I suspect it’s the optics of reaching out and not ignoring the unions. But I suspect there’ll be little substance.”
The first planned strike is GMB members who work in the Scottish ambulance service who plan to stage a 26-hour strike between 6am on 28 November and 7.59am the following day.