Margaret Greenwood MP has called on ministers to “get around the table with the unions and avert the strike action” in the NHS as she said that “there is a role for government in ending this dispute.”
The MP for Wirral West was speaking in parliament after Labour secured an urgent question on government preparations for industrial action in the NHS.
Last weekend, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) offered to suspend planned strike action for 15 and 20 December if government ministers agreed to open serious discussions over pay.
However, the RCN confirmed yesterday that nurses are due to go ahead with the planned strikes after talks with the government broke down.
Ambulance staff represented by Unison, GMB and Unite are also set to strike later this month, while numerous other bodies representing staff in the NHS are currently balloting members.
Margaret Greenwood, who last month led a debate in parliament on NHS staffing levels, pointed out that the planned strikes are not just about pay levels, but also patient safety.
Recent figures showed that there are currently more than 133,000 vacancies across the NHS in England. More than 47,000 of those are registered nursing vacancies, while more than 9,000 are medical staff vacancies.
Speaking last month, the Wirral West MP said that staffing shortages create stress for NHS workers as well as delays and deteriorating quality and safety for patients.
Speaking after her intervention in parliament, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “NHS workers care deeply about their patients. The decision to take strike action has not been taken lightly. I stand in solidarity with them.
“I know from speaking to members of the Royal College of Nursing just how stressed and burnt-out nurses are because they do not have enough colleagues working alongside them.
“That is dangerous and extremely unfair on both patients and staff.
“I have also heard of nurses suffering financial hardship; some are going to food banks, some cannot afford to drive to work, and some are leaving the profession to work in chain stores for better pay.
“The fact we have arrived at the point where NHS workers feel the only option that they have is to take strike action represents a failure on the part of consecutive Conservative governments to carry out the necessary workforce planning and a failure to give NHS workers a fair pay rise.
“The RCN and others have been calling for serious discussions with the government over pay.
“The government should get round the table play and their part in resolving this dispute as a matter of urgency.”