Thursday, December 22, 2022

The army would step in to help the NHS as part of contingency plans over the winter of strikes

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Health and defense officials are formulating an emergency strategy as ambulance drivers and paramedics consider joining nurses on the picket line in the coming months.

As the Times first reported, the government could use military aid to civilian authorities Protocol (Maca) to keep essential services running in the NHS during major strikes.

Maca what deployed during the coronavirus pandemic to help struggling health workers with vaccines, tests and the supply of protective gear.

The Department of Health and Human Services has not made a formal request for assistance to the Department of Defense.

A Government spokeswoman said: “We are working with the NHS on a range of options to manage the disruption to health and care services during industrial disputes.

“Hospitals will do everything in their power to ensure the safety of patients and the public. However, scheduled appointments may need to be canceled and emergency care prioritized only for those in need of urgent care.”

The prospect of a strike break before Christmas seemed bleak as Transport Secretary Mark Harper said pay rises in the public sector in line with rising inflation were “priceless”.

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The cabinet minister said there was “simply not the money” to meet demands from workers preparing for industrial action, but hinted at progress in rail strike talks.

Hinting at a change in the bargaining mandate, Mr Harper said there could be wage increases if rail workers accept reforms, after holding “positive” talks with Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Lynch .

Nurses will stage their first nationwide strike action next month when they join transport and postal workers on pickets to argue over wages and working conditions.

Mr Harper told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “Inflation-matching or inflation-suppressing wage increases are prohibitive.

“I think we want to try to give all public sector workers who work very hard decent wage increases, but they must not be anti-inflationary wage increases.

“Given the context, there just isn’t the money to pay them, we haven’t seen them in the private sector either, private sector wage increases have generally been handled below inflation levels, which I think is difficult for people.”

He told the BBC on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg that rail bosses “will be able to reach an agreement” if asked if they have the mandate to properly negotiate with the RMT.

“But we need to be able to negotiate this package of reforms, because that’s the only way the savings will skyrocket,” Mr. Harper said.

“I don’t have a bottomless pit of taxpayer money to address this problem.”

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will resign on December 15 and 20 if the dispute is not settled.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has urged the nurses’ union to “come back to the table” for talks but declined to talk about pay, instead wanting to talk about conditions such as pension rules, public holidays, rosters and the availability of free coffee.

RCN Secretary General Pat Cullen wrote to Mr Barclay telling him it was “negotiations or nothing”.

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