Gallery: NHS workers at Ipswich Hospital and West Suffolk Hospital in four-hour walk out in dispute over pay
- Credit: Lucy taylor
Hospital bosses have reassured patients that it is business as usual this morning despite hundreds of NHS staff taking part in a four-hour strike in a dispute over pay.
Members of five different unions - Unison, Unite, UCATT, GMB and Royal College of Midwives - are taking industrial action from 7-11am at Suffolk’s hospitals.
Staff including midwives, nurses, ambulance crews and porters from Ipswich Hospital and West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds are understood to be taking part.
But hospital bosses have reassured people that there will be no risk to patient care as “contingency plans are in place”.
Ipswich Hospital chief executive Nick Hulme said: “We are working in partnership with unions at a local level about the forthcoming industrial action during the coming months. We absolutely recognise people’s rights to take action.
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“We are working closely with our Staff Trade Union representatives to make sure that our shared priority is to provide safe care for our patients.
“We have contingency plans in place and I would like to reassure our community that there is no risk to patients. There may be some slight delays when people come to the hospital but other than that it will be business as usual.
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“Senior managers will be meeting through the day to make sure safe patient care is available to all.”
A West Suffolk Hospital spokesman said patients should attend their appointments as usual.
He added: “West Suffolk Hospital plans to deliver as normal a service as possible.”
The industrial action comes after ministers awarded NHS staff a 1% pay increase, but only for those without automatic progression-in-the-job rises.
But an Independent Pay Review Body said the pay rise should be across the board.
Yvonne Cleary, Unison eastern regional organiser, said: “Whilst the Government slashes public services, it also attacks the very people who provide those services.
“The people who care for others are being denied the right to a decent standard of living. Unless we value the people who provide the health service which we all depend on, there will be no-one left to care.”
She described the Government’s actions in denying the pay rise as a “national scandal that any decent citizen should be ashamed to be party too”. Tess Medenilla, a Unison representative and nurse at Ipswich Hospital, said: “I have never been on strike for pay before. But we cannot just stand by and let this happen.
“We are fighting for what should be ours, recommended by the Pay Review Body. But we are also fighting for the future of the NHS.
“Who will be left to care for the patients if there is no decent level of pay in the NHS?”
Rehana Azam, GMB national officer, said: “NHS staff take action with a heavy heart as their only priority is to deliver the best patient care, quality and outcomes.
“Members have seen workload increasing and colleagues being overworked. When the cost of living has increased members have endured not just pay freezes, but pay cuts, as NHS pay rates are frozen to April 2013 rates.”
A Department of Health spokesman said there was disappointment that unions are striking and have rejected proposals to give NHS staff at least 1% additional pay this year and at least a further 1% next year.
He added: “NHS staff are our greatest asset, and we’ve increased the NHS budget to pay for over 12,500 more clinical staff since 2010. We cannot afford a pay rise in addition to increments - which disproportionately reward the highest earners - without risking frontline jobs.”