Nurses will go on strike for two days next month as the pay dispute escalates across the NHS.
The Royal College of Nursing confirmed that its members will take their first national walk on December 15 and 20.
The RCN said the government had rejected its offer of formal negotiations on wages and that the ministers “instead opted for a strike.”
The NHS trusts will now negotiate with staff about which hospital and community services will operate on strike days. The RCN said it will announce which individual NHS employers are leaving next week.
The industrial action will take place in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The RCN has stopped announcing strikes in Scotland after the government reopened wage negotiations.
The RCN has said that despite a pay rise of around £1,400 awarded in the summer, experienced nurses are worse off by 20 per cent in real terms due to successive below-inflation bonuses since 2010.
Midwives and physiotherapists are also voting for strikes, while a vote for young doctors opens in the new year.
Announcing the dates of the strike, RCN General Secretary and CEO Pat Cullen said: “Ministers have had more than two weeks since we confirmed that our members felt such injustice that they would go on strike for the first time.
“My offer of formal negotiations was rejected and instead the ministers went on strike. They have the power and means to stop this by opening serious talks addressing our dispute.”
“Nurses have had enough of being taken for granted, enough of low pay and insecure staffing levels, enough of not being able to give our patients the care they deserve.”
The RCN has yet to confirm how many nurses from the three nations will be on strike and where.
NHS leaders talking to the independent raised the possibility of some trusts sharing nurses between hospitals on strike days to help maintain staffing levels.
The hospitals will negotiate with the union representatives on the services in which the staff are exempt from going on strike. Urgent and emergency care services are expected to continue, but the trusts will move to a “holiday” staffing level for other services.
More strike days are possible in January if negotiations between the government and the RCN are not opened, the union said.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Health leaders understand that this may be an uncertain time for many people, including those who regularly rely on the NHS, and that these strikes come ahead of what tends to be the busiest time. of the year for the service.
“The expectation remains that, at a minimum, urgent care, emergency and critical care services will continue on strike days and, in the event of temporary changes to non-urgent aspects of care, such as checks and procedures planned, the NHS will ensure that this happens. Patients are informed in advance, prioritizing their safety at all times.
“Health care leaders also have empathy for their workers, who feel they have no choice but to strike, particularly since most other unions are heading towards the same result with their members.”
The RCN has said the economic case for paying nurses fairly is clear when billions of pounds are spent on agency staff to fill gaps in the workforce. He added that in the past year, 25,000 nursing staff across the UK have left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register, with low pay contributing to UK-wide staff shortages, which he warned was affecting patient safety.
There are 47,000 unfilled registered nurse positions in England’s NHS alone, the union said.
Responding to the strike, Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “I am extremely grateful for the hard work and dedication of the nurses and deeply regret that some union members are taking industrial action.
“These are difficult times for everyone and economic circumstances mean that the RCN’s demands, which according to current figures are a 19.2 per cent pay increase, costing £10bn a year, are not affordable.
“Our priority is to keep patients safe. The NHS has tried and tested plans to minimize disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate.”
Meanwhile, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said strike-affected patients “will never forgive the Conservatives for this negligence.”
He said: “Why the hell is the health secretary refusing to negotiate with the nurses? Patients can no longer get treatment on time, the strike is the last thing they need, but the government is allowing this to happen.
“First the government refused to talk to the health unions all summer, now they refuse to negotiate. If the Conservatives have given up governing, they should step aside for Labour.”