Rishi Sunak vows to fix crippling NHS waiting times as he reveals he's open to talks with nurses over pay amid strikes | The SunJanuary 8, 2023
RISHI Sunak has vowed to fix crippling NHS waiting times as he reveals he's open to talks with nurses over pay.
The Prime Minister has said the government "is keen to sit down with unions" and prevent further strikes.
Rishi said "the door has always been open" to discuss pay and fixing the NHS is a "top priority" of his.
He urged "the things we are doing are going to help" the NHS, as he revealed talks will start on Monday.
However, it was indicated discussions will be about a pay settlement for the upcoming financial year rather than 2022-23.
He told the BBC's Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: "When it comes to pay we've always said we want to talk about things that are reasonable, that are affordable and responsible for the country.
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"We are about to start a new pay settlement round for this year, we're about to start that independent process, and before that process starts the Government is keen to sit down with the unions and talk about pay and make sure they understand where we're coming from."
Pat Cullen, Chief Executive of Royal College of Nursing, said the talks tomorrow won't be about the 2022-23 pay – and will therefore have zero impact on the planned strike action in 10 days time.
She said: "Well, the Prime Minister talked about coming to the table, now that's a move for me because I have said, let's meet halfway,
"It doesn't feel like a game for any nurse.
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"We've had two days of strike and it was the hardest thing I've done in my 42 years.
"There's absolutely no nurse that wants to do this [but] nurses are getting poorer.
"They can't afford to survive on their wages.
"The only way that appears the government are going to listen is [if they] actually use their voices and stand on picket lines and say 'enough is enough'."
The PM said £500million has gone to healthcare in local areas and the plan is to use more virtual wards to get people out of hospital.
He said by next spring he is confident patients having to wait over a year for treatment will be eliminated.
Rishi blamed Covid for the "enormous pressure" the healthcare system is now under.
He said: "Recovering from Covid is going to be tough and we're seeing that play out on our TV screens every day and in communities up and down the country – but actually I came away from all my meetings today with a renewed sense of confidence and optimism that we can get to grips with this problem.
"I can't help that Covid happen, I can't help that there are thousands of people in hospital who wouldn't normally be there.
"I'm not going to sit here and promise it will be solved overnight."
Professor Clive Kay, Chief Exec for King's College London, said the situation in the NHS right now is "relentless".
He said: "My colleagues are doing their best but it is now pretty relentless
"We are having to carry out corridor care and sometimes we have patients in our A&E departments for days."
It comes after the Royal College of Emergency Medicine revealed around 300 people a week have died because of overcrowding in hospitals.
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Last week 5,105 flu patients were in hospital beds — up 47 per cent on the week before.
Meanwhile four in ten waited at least half an hour which is up from 23 per cent on 12 months ago.
Rishi Sunak’s five pledges as PM
- To halve inflation
- Grow the economy
- Reduce the borrowing amount of debt
- Cut NHS waiting lists
- Stop the boats
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