The Welsh Government expects that NHS Wales services will be significantly impacted by industrial action, as the first of planned strikes by staff begins today in most areas of Wales.
The Royal College of Nursing has announced its members will go on strike on 15th and 20th December, with further action confirmed this month by the GMB union. Locally in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board region, members will not be joining colleagues on the picket lines after they failed to reach the threshold for a valid result.
Under union rules, at least half of all members in each health organisation must vote in order for the result to stand.
In Gwent the number of members to vote fell just short of that threshold, at 49.6 per cent and while this does not mean that union members in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board voted against strike action, not enough members voted at all for the result to be binding.
During the industrial action, NHS services are likely to resemble those usually provided on public holidays. People in need of urgent assistance or with life-threatening conditions are advised to attend emergency departments or contact the emergency services as they would on any other day.
As part of discussions ahead of industrial action, NHS employers and trade unions mutually agree exemptions from strike action, or ‘derogations’, to ensure the continuity of urgent or life-threatening care during any strikes.
Non-urgent or routine appointments are likely to be postponed. Health boards will inform patients and aim to reschedule new appointments as soon as possible.
The Welsh Government has advised people with non-life-threatening conditions to use the NHS Wales 111 digital service in the first instance. Local health board websites will provide the latest information on the strikes’ impact on local services.
Eluned Morgan, the Minister for Health and Social Services, said:“We believe all public sector workers should be fairly rewarded for the important work they do.
“The strikes which begin today will inevitably have a significant impact on NHS services. But we recognise the strength of feeling among staff, which the difficult decision to vote for industrial action reflects.
“While we were unable to avert this week’s industrial action, all partners have agreed to keep talking and continue to work together. We will work continue to bring together trade unions, employers and government to deliver the best possible outcomes for workers within the funding we have available.”