Strike action risking cancer survival rates, says Cancer Research UK
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The UK government has been urged to resolve the NHS staff crisis and pay problems as strike action risks cancer survival rates dropping, according to the chief executive of Cancer Research UK.
Earlier this week, nurses in England, Wales and Nothern Ireland started the largest strike action of its kind in NHS history.
They are striking over a dispute surrounding pay, with the UK government saying the 19 percent pay rise wanted by The Royal College of Nursing is unaffordable.
The strike action is said to involve nurses in around a quarter of hospitals and community teams in England.
But Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK has said that these strikes pose a serious threat to cancer patients despite the NHS' efforts to prioritise them.
She has urged that 'all parties involved to work together to come to a resolution', adding that the situation for cancer patients is already critical due to wait times and staff shortages.
Speaking to The Guardian, Mitchell said: "Cancer services are already struggling due to the pandemic and years of chronic workforce shortages.
"Despite the best efforts of NHS staff, cancer waiting times are consistently among the worst on record and plans to bring them down by 2025 are unlikely to be reached.
"Although we know that the NHS rightly prioritises cancer, the effect of the strikes will be cumulative and it will be harder and harder for hospitals to avoid impact on outcomes for cancer patients.
"The government must deliver on its commitment to publish a long-term workforce plan, including measures to maximise retention – otherwise we risk undoing all the hard won progress we’ve made over the past 20 years."
But a deal between the two parties seems to be no closer to happening, as the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing called out the Health Secretary Steve Barclay.
Pat Cullen claimed that Barclay undervalued the work of nurses because it was a '90 percent female profession'.
She also told The Times that she sees a 'macho culture in government', claiming that Barclay was 'confrontational' and 'hostile' during negotiations with union officials on Monday (12 December).
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has insisted that the door is still open for talks, but reiterated that the government would stick to the recommendations of the independent body review.
Speaking during a visit to Belfast on Friday (16 December), the PM said: "We want to be fair, reasonable and constructive, that’s why we accepted the recommendations of an independent pay body about what fair pay would be."