Head of nurses’ union WILL meet health secretary as dispute rumbles on – but says it won’t be ‘about negotiations’ as she pursues double-digit pay rise for members

  • Pat Cullen told members the discussion with is ‘not about negations’  

The head of the Royal College of Nursing will meet the Health Secretary as she pursues a double-digit pay rise for nurses.

Pat Cullen told members at the union’s annual conference yesterday that her meeting with Steve Barclay is ‘not about negotiations’, however. She will instead explain why nurses have rejected a pay settlement ahead of a new strike ballot, which will open on May 23 and close on June 23.

The RCN has warned that strikes could go on until Christmas, which would force thousands more operations and appointments to be cancelled.

Ms Cullen told the congress in Brighton: ‘If you give the college another six-month mandate for strike action across the whole of England’s NHS, then Government will be forced to act once more.’

She said the Government may be watching the conference, adding: ‘I’ll tell you why… Who emailed me last night at nine o’clock?’ 

Royal College of Nursing head Pat Cullen (pictured) told members at the union¿s annual conference yesterday that her meeting with Steve Barclay

Royal College of Nursing head Pat Cullen (pictured) told members at the union’s annual conference yesterday that her meeting with Steve Barclay

Ms Cullen will explain to the health secretary why nurses have rejected a pay settlement ahead of a new strike ballot, which will open on May 23 and close on June 23. Pictured: Nurses holding a protest outside St Thomas' Hospital in London

Ms Cullen will explain to the health secretary why nurses have rejected a pay settlement ahead of a new strike ballot, which will open on May 23 and close on June 23. Pictured: Nurses holding a protest outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London

To cheers from the audience, she said: ‘The Health Secretary wants to see me. Colleagues, this is not about negotiations, but it is important that I go and tell him again why many of you voted to reject the pay offer.’

A Department of Health and Social Care source said Mr Barclay is happy to listen to nurses’ concerns but stressed the current pay deal is ‘final’ and negotiations ‘will not be reopened’, adding: ‘The Health Secretary wants to work constructively with unions on making the NHS a better place to work.’

Yesterday’s conference also heard claims that NHS trusts are using students as unpaid healthcare assistants and employing cheaper nursing associates – who have less training than registered nurses – to plug gaps in rotas.

With around 80 nurses leaving the profession every week, and 45,000 vacancies in England, the less-qualified workers are said to be picking up the workload but for less pay.

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