Published by BBC NEWS - 21st April 2023
  • Published
Nurses protest during a strike by NHS medical workersImage source, Reuters

NHS leaders have written to the health secretary asking him to check with the courts if the next nurses’ strike in England is legal.

The Royal College of Nursing is planning a 48-hour walkout starting at 20:00 BST on Sunday 30 April.

NHS Employers says it has received legal advice that the timing of the industrial action would be unlawful.

The RCN disagrees, saying the strike falls within the required six-month period from when votes were cast.

If the RCN is wrong, the whole strike may need to be called off.

NHS Employers says it believes ballots closed at midday on 2 November 2022, meaning action on 2 May – the last day of the planned strike – would not be covered by the strike mandate.

In his letter to health secretary Steve Barclay, NHS Employers Danny Mortimer said: “The advice that we have received makes clear it is highly likely that if the notices for industrial actions are incorrect in one respect, then they are incorrect in total and that the strike action for the entire period of 30th April to 2nd May is illegal.”

RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen warned that “bullying” nurses and dragging them through the highest courts “would not be a good look” for government.

“It would show utter contempt for nursing staff. We will make the case for the legality of our action in all forums.”

The BBC has approached the Department for Health and Social Care for comment.

The planned walkout from 20:00 BST on 30 April to 20:00 on 2 May will involve NHS nurses in emergency departments, intensive care, cancer wards and other wards.

Nurses have already walked out twice this year – on 6 and 7 February and on 18 and 19 January – but on those dates there were exemptions, so that nursing cover was maintained in critical areas.

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