Union accuses Steve Barclay of trying to 'wear down nurses' in court
Royal College of Nursing accuses Health Secretary Steve Barclay of trying to ‘wear down nurses’ ahead of landmark High Court showdown over legality of 48-hour bank holiday strike
- If Government is successful part of the upcoming nurses’ strike will be called off
- Read more: Civil servants hit Health Secretary Steve Barclay with bullying claims
Health Secretary Steve Barclay is trying to ‘undermine’ and ‘wear down’ nurses, according to the union ahead of today’s High Court showdown.
The head of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Pat Cullen, also said the union ‘suspects’ that Mr Barclay invited NHS Employers, who initially wrote to him asking him to take legal action, to do so.
These explosive claims were made in Ms Cullen’s witness statement to the court, which was published last night.
Mr Barclay is taking the union to court to declare the May 2 portion of their planned 48-hour strike unlawful.
RCN nurses are planning to walk off their NHS jobs and take to picket lines from 8pm on April 30 in a strike where they will withdraw ‘life and limb’ care for the first time.
RCN members protesting at outside the High Court as the Government attempts to have their strike on May 2 declared illegal
Health Secretary Steve Barclay has been accused by union officials of bullying nurses, as claims also emerge that his managerial style has upset staff in his own office
In a witness statement Pat Cullen accused Mr Barclay of trying to ‘undermine’ and ‘wear down’ nurses through the courts
For the first time in the increasingly bitter dispute there are no agreed exceptions to the industrial action meaning nurses will walk off intensive care and emergency departments for the first time.
In her witness statement MS Cullen said the Government seeking to stop the May 2 strike was politically motivated.
‘This application is part of a clear strategy by the Secretary of State to undermine the RCN and wear down its members in the industrial dispute,’ she wrote.
She added the union also suspects Mr Barclay invited NHS Employers, a body that represented the providers of NHS services in England, to ask him to act.
‘Indeed, RCN suspects that the letter from NHS Employers was specifically invited by the Secretary of State for self-serving reasons in order to avoid any dispute about his standing to seek the declaratory relief sought,’ she said.
Read more: Civil servants hit Health Secretary Steve Barclay with bullying allegations… just days after Dominic Raab was forced to step down as Justice Secretary
Mr Barclay has said NHS Employers had contacted him asking him to check the legality of the action because the organisation believes the strike mandate runs out on May 1.
He said: ‘Following a request from NHS Employers I am regretfully applying to the High Court to declare the Royal College of Nursing’s planned strike action on 2 May unlawful.
‘Despite attempts by my officials to resolve the situation over the weekend, I have been left with no choice but to proceed with legal action.
‘I firmly support the right to take industrial action within the law, but the Government cannot stand by and let a plainly unlawful strike action go ahead nor ignore the request of NHS Employers.
‘We must also protect nurses by ensuring they are not asked to take part in an unlawful strike.’
By law unions in England must hold strike action six months after their ballot.
The RCN ballot on pay, which launched a wave of historic strike action by the union, closed on November 2.
The Government therefore argues that the last legal day of strike action is May 1.
However, the RCN is arguing that the six months period for strike action starts the day after the ballot closes making the May 2 strike lawful.
Nurses are expected to be protesting outside the High Court today with Ms Cullen vowing to ‘stand up’ to Government ‘bullies’ in court.
However, she has confirmed members will not be asked to strike on May 2 if the court rules in the Government’s favour.
She said in a message to members: ‘The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them – including in court.
More than 500,000 NHS appointments and operations in England have been cancelled as a result of staff striking over pay, with further disruption planned
Read more: Midwives vote to accept NHS pay offer with 57% in favour and 43% rejecting it
Midwives have voted to accept the latest NHS pay offer, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has announced
‘The court will decide whether to support this Government’s use of draconian anti-trade union legislation.
‘If the Government succeeds in silencing members like you and convinces the court to stop part of our strike, then we’ll have no choice but to cut it short.
‘Our strike action has always been safe and legal. We would never ask our members to do anything unsafe or against your professional code.
‘It’s so wrong for the Government to use taxpayers’ money to drag our profession through the courts.
‘We’re determined to show that the nursing profession is strong and determined and defend our members’ right to strike.”
Ms Cullen has urged ministers to resume negotiations after RCN members rejected a 5 per cent pay offer.
The deal, which included a one-off bonus us of up to £3,789, was recommended by union leadership, but was narrowly rejected.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also now waded into the row.
Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Sir Keir said: ‘What’s happened in the nurses’ case is really instructive, because actually the union recommended the deal and the nurses themselves rejected it.
‘That tells you just how angry the nurses are, because that’s quite unusual.’
Accusations of that Mr Barclay is bullying the nursing profession come as the minister faces accusations that he is a bully in his own office.
He was accused of ‘bad behaviour’ towards staff in the Department of Health and Social Care since being appointed last summer.
The Guardian said officials had ‘raised concerns’, with civil servants complaining informally to Chris Wormald, the department’s permanent secretary.
But allies and ex-colleagues of Mr Barclay denied the allegations and suggested civil servants may now feel ’emboldened’ to ‘go after’ ministers they did not like.
It comes after Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab quit when a probe found he had upset staff.
The RCN’s planned strike action is causing alarm among health leaders who fear plans to withdraw so-called ‘life and limb’ care could put patients at risk over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Previous walk-outs by nursing staff saw exemptions put in place in areas where timely treatment of patients is vital, including in A&E, intensive care, mental health and cancer services.
None of these will apply for the upcoming strikes.
The past six months of industrial action by several NHS health unions, including the RCN, has seen over half a million operations and appointments postponed.
In other NHS union news, midwives voted to accept the latest NHS pay offer despite it not being ‘perfect’, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has announced.
In a turnout of 48 per cent of eligible members working in the NHS in England, 57 per cent voted to accept the deal, with 43 per cent rejecting it.
Alice Sorby, director of employment relations at the RCM, said: ‘The offer was not perfect, and it was not everything we asked for or that midwives and maternity support workers deserve.
‘However, it was a step forward from the Government’s entrenched position on 2022/23 pay and improved on its directions to the Pay Review Body for 2023/24.
‘It was the power of the collective unions standing together, with our members behind us, that brought the Government to the table and led to this improved offer.’
Another strike, this time by teachers, is already causing massive disruption today for thousands of pupils.
Tens of thousands of teachers launched another wave of industrial action over pay just weeks before GCSE and A-Level exams – with most schools expected to either restrict access to classrooms or shut them completely.
The action, by embers of the National Education Union (NEU) saw picket lines were mounted outside schools around the country, and a number of rallies are due to be held.
Many secondary schools are expected to prioritise Year 11 and Year 13 students during the strikes, as GCSE and A-level exams are weeks away.
The NEU said it will support arrangements during the strikes that ‘provide the minimum level of teaching staff needed’ so GCSE and A-level students can attend school for revision activities or exam practice.
Where will nurses strike on April 30?
The RCN has said the 48-hour, no exceptions walkout will be held at the following NHS workplaces in England.:
Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust
Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust
Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
NHS Derby and Derbyshire ICB
NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICB
Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust
East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust
Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust
NHS Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB
NHS Mid and South Essex ICB
NHS Norfolk and Waveney ICB
NHS Suffolk and North East Essex ICB
Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
Norfolk Community Health and Care
NHS Trust Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust
Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust
Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
NHS North Central London ICB
NHS South West London ICB
Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust
University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust
Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust
Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
NHS Cheshire and Merseyside ICB
NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB
North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust
St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust
The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust
Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust
Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust
Country Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust
Gateshead NHS Foundation Trust
North of England Commissioning Support (NECS)
North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust
Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust
NHS Kent and Medway ICB
NHS Surrey Heartlands ICB
Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
South East Coast Ambulance Service
Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust
Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust
Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust
Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust
Solent NHS Trust
South Central Ambulance Services NHS Foundation Trust
Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust
Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
Devon Partnership NHS Trust
Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust
Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
NHS Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire ICB
NHS Devon ICB (One Devon)
NHS Dorset ICB (One Dorset)
NHS Gloucestershire ICB (One Gloucestershire)
North Bristol NHS Trust
Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust
Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust
Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust
Somerset NHS Foundation Trust
South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust
Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust
Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trust
Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust
Midlands and Lancashire CSU
Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
NHS Birmingham and Solihull ICB (BSol ICB)
NHS Black Country ICB
Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust
The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust
Yorkshire and the Humber
Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust
Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust
NHS North West Yorkshire ICB
Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Health Education England
NHS Blood and Transplant
NHS England NHS Resolution
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