The forthcoming strike in England by members of the Royal College of Nursing has to be cut short by a day, a judge has ruled.
The walkout is due to start at 20:00 BST on Sunday and was going to last until 20:00 on Tuesday.
It must now end on Bank Holiday Monday, following the case brought by the government at the High Court.
The judge ruled that the RCN’s six-month mandate for strike action would have lapsed by Tuesday.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay took legal action after NHS Employers said it believed the last day of the planned strike was not covered by the mandate as the ballots closed on 2 November 2022 at midday.
It had argued that could invalidate the whole strike and urged the government to look into the case.
The government ended up just contesting the part of the strike that fell on the 2 May, the Tuesday.
The judge ordered the RCN to pay the costs of the hearing, saying the union showed “a high degree of unreasonableness”.#
Mr Justice Linden said that the outcome was “inevitable” and that “instead of grasping the nettle and conceding” it forced the case to court.
Ahead of the court hearing the RCN said it would have to accept the judgement as it would “never do anything illegal”.
But it accused Mr Barclay of bullying nurses and using “draconian anti-trade union legislation”.
The strike was called earlier this month after RCN members rejected a government offer for England of a 5% pay rise for 2023-24 and a one-off payment of at least £1,655 to top up last year’s salary, depending on staff grade.
The union announced its members had rejected the offer by 54% to 46%.
The walkout 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 nursing cover was maintained in critical areas.
The government has said strike action with no national exemptions would put patients at risk.
The RCN has said it would ballot members for further strike action once its current mandate expires.
Other unions are also consulting members on the pay deal, which is being offered to all NHS staff, other than doctors and very senior managers.
The biggest health union, Unison, has accepted the deal, as have the midwives.
But radiographers have rejected it.
All the health unions will meet with ministers on Tuesday to reveal whether a majority of staff back the Agenda for Change pay deal.
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