Health

Fury as Rolex-wearing minister says nurses ‘usually’ only use foodbanks when they’ve been dumped

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A Government minster’s claim that nurses ‘usually’ only use foodbanks if they have been dumped or their boiler has broken sparked fury today.     

Unions said Education Secretary Gillian Keegan‘s comments, made while wearing a £10,000 Rolex, showed a ‘staggering lack of empathy’.

It comes as the Royal College of Nursing prepares to confirm that tens of thousands of nurses will strike this winter after a ‘historic’ ballot. Cancer treatments and routine operations could be axed.

The union is arguing for an inflation-busting pay rise for its NHS nurses amid reports staff are being forced to use food banks due to the rising cost of living

Ms Keegan told Sky News: ‘Quite often when you go to food banks, something will have happened, you know, something will have broken down – either a relationship or boiler or anything.

‘Usually they’re in an emergency situation.’

Ms Keegan, who also claimed she didn’t think there was ‘any point’ in nurses striking, said she had ‘of course’ clapped for nurses during the pandemic. 

This graph shows the Royal College of Nursing’s demands for a 5 per cent above inflation pay rise for the bands covered by its membership which includes healthcare assistants and nurses. Estimates based on NHS Employers data

The RCN is just one NHS union which has or is balloting its members over pay

The RCN is just one NHS union which has or is balloting its members over pay

Union behind NHS nurse strikes is advertising jobs for medics ABROAD which pay up to £80,000-a-year 

Britain’s biggest nursing union, which is orchestrating devastating strikes this winter, is advertising lucrative jobs abroad which pay thousands more than the NHS, MailOnline can reveal.

Roles posted on the Royal College of Nursing’s in-house job site brag of being on the doorstep of beautiful beaches and amazing wine country. 

Salaries range from the equivalent of £43,000 to almost £80,000.

Recruiters also offer ‘generous’ relocation packages and thousands of pounds’ worth of yearly perks, including meals and rent.  

For comparison, the average NHS nurse earns around £35,600.

Thinktanks today said it was ‘ironic’ that the 300,000-strong union is advertising for British nurses to leave the UK while simultaneously bemoaning staffing shortages.

The RCN, which insists strike action is a ‘last resort’, publicly says ‘unfairly low pay in our profession is driving chronic understaffing’. 

It claims the workforce crisis, and the knock-on effects on NHS patients, is the ‘only reason’ it even contemplated industrial action.

Up to one in 10 nursing roles in England are currently vacant, with staff ditching roles for better-paid gigs in retail and hospitality.   

Unions representing NHS staff reacted furiously to the comments. 

Rachel Harrison, GMB National Secretary, said: ‘Does Ms Keegan think we have 135,000 vacancies in the NHS because of break ups? Or is it the systematic underpayment of health professionals.

‘Nurses and other NHS workers have been forced to use food banks because they are desperate after more than a decade of real terms pay cuts under the Conservatives.

‘To suggest they do it because of a relationship bust up shows a staggering lack of empathy.’   

GMB is currently balloting almost 20,000 workers across the NHS, including nurses. 

Commenting this morning, Ms Keegan said she thought strike action was pointless. 

‘I don’t think there’s any point in going on strike,’ she said.  

‘I would urge the nurses to continue those discussions, but the reality is if we gave massive above-inflation rises, not only would we have to raise a lot more money, but it would actually fuel inflation.

‘This is the problem. We really have to tackle inflation.’

The RCN says its members need an inflation-busting pay rise to combat the rise in the cost of living. 

But Ms Keegan, an ex-Department of Health minister who was criticised for flashing the expensive watch earlier this year, suggested the real reason nurses in crisis is not low pay.

MailOnline approached the Department of Education for clarification on if the watch Ms Keegan was wearing this morning was the same Rolex. 

Today’s announcement from the RCN is not expected to reveal exactly which days strike action will take place on. Details are set to be ironed out with NHS hospitals in the coming weeks to ensure patient safety is maintained.

But tens of thousands of nurses taking strike action is expected to scrap thousands of elective treatments — though emergency care will still go ahead.

The union’s strike ballot marked the first time it has balloted all of its UK members for strike action in its 106-year history.

It is demanding nurses get a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation, which currently sits above 12 per cent. 

This would grant the average nurse, who earns roughly £35,600 each year, an extra £6,000 annually.

But No10 has so far refused to budge on its offer of the equivalent of a 4 per cent pay rise for nurses, which union officials say is driving nurses to leave the profession for better paid jobs in retail amid a soaring rise cost-of-living. 

Up to 1million NHS workers could walk out over pay conditions this winter, prompting fears that blood tests will be delayed, chemotherapy cancelled and dialysis treatments postponed if strikes go ahead. 

The RCN said nurses have been ‘forced’ into strike action due to a ‘decade of real-terms pay cuts’, warning ‘enough is enough’. 

It comes in the same week it was revealed the union is facing a fresh leadership crisis.

RCN officials face being voted out of their leadership positions at an extraordinary general meeting to be held later this month.

It follows a damming review into its toxic, male-dominated culture.

The independent report, conducted by Bruce Carr KC, was set up following internal accusations of sexual harassment and bullying.

It found that women are at risk of ‘alcohol and power related exploitation’ and junior nurses were groped by senior union officials.

The inquiry also highlighted a misogynistic environment in higher levels of the RCN’s leadership, with ‘loud and abrasive’ male voices dominating the environment ‘to the detriment of female colleagues’.

The NHS waiting list for routine operations in August in England breached 7million for the first time ever. This includes almost 390,000 patients who've been forced to wait over a year for treatment

The NHS waiting list for routine operations in August in England breached 7million for the first time ever. This includes almost 390,000 patients who’ve been forced to wait over a year for treatment

The latest NHS data recorded that about 45,000 nursing posts in England are vacant as of the end of June. London has highest percentage missing, with 15 per cent of nursing posts unfilled

The latest NHS data recorded that about 45,000 nursing posts in England are vacant as of the end of June. London has highest percentage missing, with 15 per cent of nursing posts unfilled

NHS data shows efforts to get more nurses into the health service are only barely keeping pace with the number of experienced nurses quitting

NHS data shows efforts to get more nurses into the health service are only barely keeping pace with the number of experienced nurses quitting

Royal College’s council faces vote of no confidence after damning report into its toxic  culture 

The nursing union orchestrating devastating NHS strikes this winter was plunged into a fresh crisis today.

Royal College of Nursing officials face being voted out of their leadership positions at an extraordinary general meeting to be held later this month.

It follows a damming review into its toxic, male-dominated culture

The chaos comes just as the union is due to release the results of the largest strike action ballot in its history. Tens of thousands of NHS nurses are set to walk-out over pay in the coming months.

The independent report, conducted by Bruce Carr KC, was set up following internal accusations of sexual harassment and bullying. 

It found that women are at risk of ‘alcohol and power related exploitation’ and junior nurses were groped by senior union officials.

The inquiry also highlighted a misogynistic environment in higher levels of the RCN’s leadership, with ‘loud and abrasive’ male voices dominating the environment ‘to the detriment of female colleagues’.

It described the RCN Council, the 300,000-strong union’s governing body, as ‘not fit for purpose’. 

Members will be able to vote the council out later this month. Some of the board are already under investigation in the wake of the report, it is claimed.

It described the RCN Council, the 300,000-strong union’s governing body, as ‘not fit for purpose’.

Members will be able to vote the council out later this month. Some of the board are already under investigation in the wake of the report, it is claimed.

Union bosses have previously insisted the Carr report will not distract it from battling for higher pay for nurses, including the potential upcoming strike action. 

Senior health officials have warned patients are expected to only receive a ‘bank holiday’ level of service on days nurses walk off the job.

Vital cancer and kidney disease treatments and routine operations could be axed as thousands of health workers walk out over pay.

The RCN has also asked agency nurses, who may be drafted in to help shore up staffing numbers to stop the knock-on effects of walk-outs, not to cover positions left vacant by striking staff. 

The union’s guidance reads: ‘If you’re an agency worker allocated to work at an NHS organisation on a day of strike action, we expect you do not cover that shift.’

It conflicts with the Government’s efforts to help stop union disruption of essential services.

The RCN has also told the MailOnline strikes could be averted if ministers agreed to meet their demands on pay. 

An union spokesperson said: ‘Once we announce our results, we will be informing the Secretary of State and every NHS employer. 

‘We will be open with our members that ministers have the potential to stop this at any point by doing what is fair by nursing staff.’ 

The Department of Health and Social Care was contacted on if it would meet with union bosses this week to try and avoid winter strikes but did not respond. 

The RCN balloted nurses at 300 NHS hospitals and trusts. 

However, not all 300 hospitals and trusts may be hit by strike action. 

At least half of nurses at each NHS organisation and trust need to vote in favour of industrial action for the strike to go ahead, which could trigger varying levels of service across the country. 

The RCN said there are ‘record’ nursing vacancies and 25,000 nurses left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register. 

It is calling for more staff to reduce record waiting lists which have built up during the pandemic. 

Yesterday, MailOnline revealed the RCN is advertising lucrative jobs abroad which pay thousands more than the NHS.

Nurses are just one of the public services profession demanding higher pay than the Government offer

Nurses are just one of the public services profession demanding higher pay than the Government offer.

HISTORY OF NHS STRIKES 

Nurses Strike Over Pay 1988

Around 2,500 nurses across the UK took part in a day of industrial action in protest against their pay in January 1988, backed by other NHS medics.

Nurses were offered a three per cent pay rise, while national wage increases were set to be scrapped in favour of regional packages, under Government plans. 

Health bosses said just two per cent of the country’s nurses took part and 200 operations were cancelled. 

Doctors Pension Strike 2012

Some 100,000 NHS workers took part in strike action in May 2012 in protest against pension reforms.

It came after 94 per cent of Unite union members rejected the Government’s final pension offer. 

The union argued the contract would see nurses work until they were 65-years-old and pay an extra £30 contribution per month.

Health bosses estimated 30,000 operations were cancelled, more than 1million GP appointments were delayed and 200,000 outpatient consultations were rescheduled.

Junior Doctors Strike 2016

Junior doctors in England went on strike for one day per month in the first four months of 2016 to protest against changes to their contracts.

In November 2015, almost all of the medics – 98 per cent – voted in favour of industrial action.

On the four strike days – January 12, February 10, March 9 and April 27 – junior doctors refused to provide routine care. Hospitals cancelled 300,000 outpatient appointments in response.

On the final strike day junior doctors also refused to provide emergency care. 

Roles posted on the union’s in-house job site brag of being on the doorstep of beautiful beaches and amazing wine country. 

Salaries range from the equivalent of £43,000 to almost £80,000.

Recruiters also offer ‘generous’ relocation packages and thousands of pounds’ worth of yearly perks, including meals and rent.  

For comparison, the average NHS nurse earns around £35,600.

Thinktanks today said it was ‘ironic’ that the 300,000-strong union is advertising for British nurses to leave the UK while simultaneously bemoaning staffing shortages.

The RCN, which insists strike action is a ‘last resort’, publicly says ‘unfairly low pay in our profession is driving chronic understaffing’. 

It claims the workforce crisis, and the knock-on effects on NHS patients, is the ‘only reason’ it even contemplated industrial action.

Up to one in 10 nursing roles in England are currently vacant, with staff ditching roles for better-paid gigs in retail and hospitality. 

Meanwhile, even more strike pain for the health service could be on the horizon with the union Unite announced its was expanding its NHS strike ballot to 100,000 members working in the health service in England and Wales.

The new ballot will incorporate nurses, as well as mental health staff, NHS dentists, paramedics as well as health service estate and admin staff. 

Unite was previously balloting ambulance drivers in Scotland and England on potential strike action but said the situation in the NHS had prompted an expansion to other groups. 

The union’s national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: ‘The strike across the NHS is widening because our members have had enough. 

‘The truth is that they cannot afford to do the job anymore, yet this Government wants to cut their pay further.

‘If our members walk out on strike, it will be the toughest thing they ever do but they have to protect our NHS.’

If the Unite ballot returns a yes result, the union said its members would strike in the New Year.  

If the Government doesn’t capitulate to the RCN demands, and the unprecedented strikes go ahead, senior health officials have warned patients are expected to only receive a ‘bank holiday’ level of service on days nurses walk off the job. 

Senior health sources said the NHS will operate as if it is Christmas Day on all strike days, with elective treatments scrapped — though emergency care will go ahead.

They also warned the action may exacerbate the bed-blocking crisis, as hospitals often fail to discharge patients who are ready to go home on bank holidays.

Strikes are expected to pile even more pressure on to the health service at its hardest time of year, as it battles winter pressures and expected waves of Covid and flu.

And it may worsen the backlog of care that has already piled up, with seven million people in England on the waiting list for elective hospital treatment by August. 

Other parts of the NHS workforce are also mulling over strike action.

The Royal College of Midwives has asked its 50,000 members to vote in support of industrial action when ballots open on November 11. 

Two-thirds have already said they would be willing to strike in a preliminary poll. 

More than 15,000 ambulance workers at 11 trusts in England and Wales are being balloted on industrial action over pay and ‘unsafe’ working conditions. 

The GMB union said if the strikes went ahead, which could take place ahead of Christmas, it would be the biggest for three decades. 

Some 8,000 members in Scotland last week voted ‘overwhelmingly’ in favour of industrial action. 

And the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy said more than eight in 10 of its 60,000 members across the UK are prepared to strike.

Members in Scotland last week voted in favour of strike action. Voting in England closes today, while members in Wales have until December 12 to post their ballot.

It makes the first time members have been balloted over pay in the CSP’s 100-year history. 

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association will ballot junior doctors in early January on whether it should strike over pay.

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