RCN union boss Pat Cullen joins striking nurses at Weston Hospital !

Full details about RCN union boss Pat Cullen joins striking nurses at Weston Hospital

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RCN chief Pat Cullen spoke to the Star as thousands of nurses at St Helens and Whiston hospitals joined the national strike in a dispute over pay on Wednesday.

Picket lines formed at Marshall Cross Road and Warrington Road as the nursing union president said patients were not getting safe levels of staffing “on any day of the week” in the NHS.

Nursing staff from more than 55 NHS trusts in England took part in an industrial strike on Wednesday and were due to leave again on Thursday.

Work began over two days in December but this was the first time the staff had joined forces in St Helens and Knowsley.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has announced that two more, larger strikes will be held next month.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Pat Cullen said the nurses felt “utterly heartbroken” during the strike but felt they had no other choice.

She said: “We have campaigned on an annual basis for minimum staff – safe staffing legislation to protect our patients and to ensure that our brilliant nurses can do their jobs and continue to provide safe care and treatment, but they cannot continue to do so with 47,000 vacancies.”

“The difference is amazing”

The star attended both picket lines, and spoke to the striking nurses. Deborah Yates, stage nurse at St Helens and Weston Hospitals, said: “I trained as a nurse in 1985. I left the profession and rejoined in 2014 and let me tell you, the difference is amazing.

“Staff retention is not there; it is now impossible to provide the care that people had before because the hospital is understaffed.

“The skill mix we are getting now is not good, the skill base that we need is lacking because fewer and fewer people are joining this profession because there is no incentive from this government for people to join and help those in need for inadequate pay.

“It’s not something we want to do today but no one is listening so we have to do it.”

Writing in The Independent, Health Secretary Steve Barclay said that while he was aware of cost-of-living pressures on NHS staff, “unsustainable wage increases” would fuel inflation.

He said: “If we introduce unsustainable pay increases for NHS staff, it will take billions of pounds from where we need it most. Unsustainable pay increases will mean cutting off patient care and stoking inflation that will make us all poorer.”

The health secretary insisted there was “a lot of common ground” between the two sides in the dispute, ministers said they “want to work with union leaders to improve the NHS and deliver better care” and that a “fair way” to resolve could be found.