THE NHS is facing one of the gravest crises in its history as militant unions are in talks to inflict a general strike on England’s hospitals.
Nurses are downing tools for two days over the May bank holiday – and junior doctors have threatened to join them.
Nurses are going on strike
Health Secretary Steve Barclay told HOAR on Sunday: “Industrial action means the safety of patients is put at risk.”
Panicked hospital chiefs warned a coordinated strike would “incomprehensible” chaos to the NHS.
While worried MPs said patients could die.
HOAR on Sunday has been told the British Medical Association – which represents junior doctors – is in talks with the Royal College of Nursing to join their walkout.
If they do, it would be the worst strike in NHS history.
Senior RCN chief Patricia Marquis said they could join forces with junior doctors – inflicting maximum mayhem on the NHS.
She said: “That is something that will have to be considered if not least because we are all in the same space.”
Insiders reckon it is more likely junior doctors go on strike immediately after the RCN’s rather than on the same day – causing prolonged mayhem.
Writing exclusively for this newspaper, Mr Barclay said: “Industrial action means the safety of patients is put at risk.
“Cancelled operations, missed appointments, and treatments postponed – none of this is good for the NHS or patients.”
He added: “The prospect of more upheaval and the impact this would have on key services, including emergency and cancer care, is deeply concerning – both for health leaders and patients.”
Tory MP Greg Smith said: “Coordinated action would certainly have the effect of bringing the NHS to its knees.
“This is a huge threat to patients, to lives.”
In a chilling warning, Nick Hulme, CEO of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals said: “The idea of doctors and nurses with a coordinated industrial action fills me with a lot of anxiety.
“It’s almost something I can’t comprehend – being able to run services safely without those two key core groups of staff would be very difficult indeed.”
Nurses voted to reject a 5 per cent pay offer.
In contrast Unison – the biggest health union – voted to accept it.
The RCN’s decision was a massive blow to Rishi Sunak, who had hoped he was turning a corner in settling the industrial unrest.
Nurses in A&E, intensive care and cancer wards will take industrial action for the first time.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: “After a historic vote to strike, our members expect a historic pay award.”