Nurses’ strikes are set to end in England after the profession’s largest union failed to secure enough votes to carry out further action.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) had planned to stage more walk-outs after its members rejected a pay offer from the government last month.
However, unions have to hold ballots every six months to refresh their strike mandate, with a minimum 50% turnout.
And while over 100,000 voted in favour of strikes the time, only 122,000 of the RCN’s 300,000 members submitted a ballot paper – a turnout of just over 43%.
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RCN boss Pat Cullen said “the fight for the fair pay and safe staffing that our profession, our patients, and our NHS deserves, is far from over”, despite the result.
She revealed she would be meeting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this afternoon to discuss the government’s NHS workforce plan – set to be announced later this week – and would “hear him out”.
But, she added: “I know staff morale is low and the staffing crisis is set to worsen without immediate action. I will be telling him this today.
“We have started something special – the voice of nursing has never been stronger and we’re going to keep using it.”
A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said they welcomed the end of the “hugely disruptive industrial action so staff can continue caring for patients and cutting waiting lists”.
They added: “We hope other unions who remain in dispute with the government recognise it is time to stop industrial action and move forward together.”
Members of the nursing union began strike action last year for the first time in its 106-year history over both pay and concerns about patient safety.
It has staged a number of walk-outs since, impacting NHS trusts across the country, but gaining strong support from the public.
In May, a number of other NHS unions accepted a pay rise of 5%, along with a one-off payment, but both RCN and Unite members voted against the deal.
At the time, Ms Cullen called it “unfinished business” and urged the government to bring another offer to the table.
But Health Secretary Steve Barclay insisted it was “a fair and reasonable offer”.