With no end to the string of strikes that have piled pressure on the U.K.’s overburdened public health system, thousands of nurses in Britain walked out on Wednesday in a fresh protest over wages.
Two 12-hour strikes will impact around 25% of England’s hospitals and clinics on Wednesday and Thursday.
Thousands of appointments and operations will likely be rescheduled, but emergency care and cancer treatment will continue.
In response to the rising cost of living, nurses, ambulance crews, train drivers, airport baggage handlers, border agents, driving instructors, bus drivers, and postal workers have all gone on strike in recent months.
The UK’s inflation rate. attained a 41-year high of 11.1% in October due to steeply rising food and energy prices, then marginally decreased to 10.5% in December.
The nurses’ union has stated that it will accept a lower offer even though it has asked for a pay increase of 5% over inflation.
According to the Conservative government, double-digit salary rises in the public sector will raise inflation even further.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay stated in the Independent that “unaffordable pay hikes will mean lowering patient care and fueling the inflation that will make us all poorer.”
The administration also has enraged unions by drafting a measure that will make it more difficult for essential employees to go on strike by establishing “minimum safety levels” for railroads, medical services, and firefighters.
The Royal College of Nurses union has declared two additional strike days for the next month when the disruption to the economy is expected to worsen.
With teachers, train drivers, government employees, and university staff walkouts on February 1, it looks like it may be the most disruptive day yet.
More strike dates are expected to be announced by ambulance workers later on Wednesday.
The union has “offered an olive branch, in fact, the whole tree,” according to Pat Cullen, chairman of the Royal College of Nursing, who asked health officials to “come round a table and let’s suspend the strikes, so we don’t have to carry this into February.”