After the government failed to shift in its position on the pay award for NHS workers, it looks like 2023 will begin with months of fresh strikes by both nurses and ambulance workers.
Unison has announced that ambulance workers will strike on 11 and 23 January, strikes which will be longer and involve more union members than strikes at the end of December. The union said that the escalation was "a direct result of the government’s repeated refusal to negotiate improvements to NHS pay this year".
Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison said that call handlers, dispatchers and other members of the ambulance team could join paramedics, emergency care assistants and specialist first response teams in the January strikes. She said: "What's in everybody's best interest is if the government has a change of heart and decides to engage with health workers and talks to trade unions about the package of measures needed in order to stop the dispute and solve the reason behind it, which is the staffing crisis in the NHS."
The first 24-hour strike on 21 December resulted in 25% fewer calls to 999 and eight out of 10 ambulance trusts in England declared critical incidents because of the pressure on resources. The strike on 28 December has been called off by the GMB union who said they were cancelling it so that "the public will be able to enjoy Christmas without additional anxiety". Members will now strike on 11 January, the same day as ambulance workers represented by Unison.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has announced details of the next stage of its campaign to make ministers improve on the £1,400 pay offer that they have made NHS staff. The union says the latest strikes, which will take place on 18 and 19 January, will affect 55 trusts, more than the 44 involved in the strikes on 15 and 20 December.
On announcing the next round of strikes, general secretary of the RCN Pat Cullen said: "The government had the opportunity to end this dispute before Christmas but instead they have chosen to push nursing staff out into the cold again in January. I do not wish to prolong this dispute but the prime minister has left us with no choice.
“The voice of nursing will not be ignored. Staff shortages and low pay make patient care unsafe. The sooner ministers come to the negotiating table, the sooner this can be resolved. I will not dig in if they don’t dig in.”
There is strong public support for the campaign. A YouGov survey found that 66% of the public support the nurses' action while 63% backed strikes by ambulance workers.
The new year will also see other groups of healthcare workers using industrial action to protest about pay and conditions. Physiotherapists in England and Wales and midwives in Wales are due to announce dates when they will be on strike and, on 9 January, the British Medical Association will start balloting 45,000 junior doctors which is expected to result in industrial action.