Explainer: Why Harrogate nurses are taking part in historic strike action this week
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Nurses working at Harrogate District Hospital will take part in industrial action on Wednesday, January 18 and Thursday, January 19 due to a pay and conditions dispute with the government that has rumbled on all winter.
Harrogate is one of 70 trusts in England that will strike as part of the largest organised action in NHS history.
When is the strike?
The strikes will take place from 7.15am to 8.15pm on both days and there will be a picket line outside the hospital on Lancaster Park Road.
Two days of strikes were held in England, Northern Ireland and Wales on December 15 and 20 but Harrogate nurses did not take part.
What services will be affected?
During the December strikes, thousands of appointments across the country were cancelled or postponed. A HDFT spokesperson said the hospital will contact patients that have appointments on strike days to let them know if they are still going ahead.
All life-preserving treatment must be provided and nurses in intensive and emergency care will be expected to continue working.
However, routine operations such as hip or knee replacements are likely to be affected.
A HDFT spokesperson said: “We are working to ensure there is safe patient care and that emergency services continue to operate during any industrial action, and have plans in place to mitigate the impact of disruption on direct patient care.
“If you have an appointment or operation that is scheduled on a proposed strike day we would kindly ask you to be patient and we will notify you as soon as possible to confirm if your consultation or treatment will be affected.
“The industrial action will see a picket line outside our hospital in Harrogate and we will be working with local RCN representatives to minimise any disruption this may cause for residents in the vicinity and visitors to our hospital."
Why are nurses striking?
According to the RCN, 25,000 nursing staff around the UK left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register last year. It's left hospitals with staff shortages which the union feels has compromised patient safety.
The union argues that many people are leaving the profession or deciding to work for private providers due to low pay within the NHS. It has repeatedly called for a pay increase of 5% above inflation.
However, the government says this increase would be unaffordable to tax payers.
RCN general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullan, 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 public support has been heart-warming and I am more convinced than ever that this is the right thing to do for patients and the future of the NHS.
“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."
When will the dispute be resolved?
The RCN is yet to reach an agreement with the government over the dispute but talks have been ongoing since December's strikes.
The government has raised the possibility of a one-off hardship payment to nursing staff but an offer has not been made.
In an interview with the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: "The door has always been open to talk about the things that nurses want to talk about".
A HDFT spokesperson said: “While pay is a matter for government and the trade unions, we greatly value our staff and want to see a resolution as soon as possible to ensure we can continue to focus on delivering high quality patient care to all those who need it.
“We understand the importance of good pay and conditions for individuals and their families, as well as wider NHS staff retention and recruitment."