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NHS England boss says ongoing strike is making workload ‘more challenging’

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The chief executive of NHS England has admitted frequent strikes by health workers are making workloads “more challenging”.

The NHS is set for its biggest industrial action next month, with thousands of nurses going on strike across England on Wednesday and Thursday this week and around 1,000 ambulance workers in Wales also walking out on Thursday.

There are expectations that thousands of operations and appointments will need to be canceled over the next few months, but NHS England boss Amanda Pritchard expressed hope that a solution could be found with industrial action.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “As strike action is extended over a longer period of time, and as those dates come closer together, it becomes more challenging, there’s no doubt about that.”

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“It’s clearly having an impact. I think that’s obvious.

He said: “My understanding is that everyone is trying and reaching a resolution.”

Health leaders warned emergency services were facing “alarming levels of strain” and more hospital beds were “desperately needed”.

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Delayed discharges are one of many pressures the NHS is facing this winter, along with bed shortages, a fresh wave of Covid-19 infections, the worst flu season for a decade and ongoing attacks.

6 February is likely to see the biggest strike action the NHS has ever experienced after the Unite union announced a walkout of new ambulance staff.

Thousands of nurses from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) were already due to strike on 6 and 7 February, and the GMB union announced earlier this week that its ambulance workers would join them on 6 February.

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On Friday morning, Unite said workers from five ambulance trusts in England and Wales would also join the strike on 6 February.

Downing Street insisted that the government was still open to facilitating talks with trade unions, while acknowledging that the planned walkout would cause further “disruption” to patients.

Speaking to broadcasters during a hospital tour earlier this week, Health Secretary Steve Barclay appeared to rule out a 10% pay rise for nurses, saying it was “not affordable”.

“Well 10% is not affordable, it would be an extra £3.6 billion a year and obviously it would take money away from patient services, essential services that we need to invest in backlogged by the pandemic,” he said.

“Now, within government we take a whole-of-government approach — certainly I’ve consulted with Treasury, as do other secretaries of state, and these things are not only with teachers’ needs, the education secretary , or train drivers with the Secretary of Transport, but also what is affordable for your audience in terms of their own living pressures.

He insisted he was working “constructively” with the unions but said he was “frustrated” by the strikes.

(translate to tag) NHS England

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