Physiotherapy staff in England have had no choice but to strike again today, following the government’s refusal to hold meaningful talks over NHS pay.
Photographs by Asadour Guzelian
Up to 4,200 CSP members from 33 trusts across England are currently out on strike, as part of the ongoing dispute over the pay award given to NHS staff on the Agenda for Change pay scale.
Today’s industrial action follows the profession’s first ever strike over pay last month, on 26 January, when 4,200 physiotherapy staff walked out at another 30 trusts across England.
Since then, the government has refused to discuss the ongoing pay dispute, despite calls from NHS Providers, NHS Confederation, chief nurses and the general public for a resolution to be found.
The CSP has been clear that strikes by physiotherapy staff would be suspended if genuine talks took place, but so far this year there had been only one 45-minute meeting, which was held on 9 January.
Meanwhile, a national NHS physiotherapy strike in Wales, which had been due to take place on Tuesday (7 February), was paused after the Welsh government agreed to engage with health unions and meet for discussions.
As a result, negotiations with the Welsh government are now ongoing, and a new pay offer is expected to be put to CSP members in Wales in due course.
This breakthrough follows similar progress made in Scotland last year, where an improved offer was secured through negotiations with the Scottish government and subsequently accepted by CSP members.
Government’s refusal to meet is ‘inexplicable’
Commenting on today’s strike action Claire Sullivan, CSP director of employment relations, said: 'Our members are sick and tired of hearing the UK Government claim they are open to talks with the health unions when they have not lifted a finger to avert strikes in England.
‘They have made no attempt to address this year’s pay dispute, with the only meeting in early January focussing on next year instead – there was no meaningful discussion of the central issue causing this dispute.
‘This is outrageous at a time when the NHS is facing the direst of workforce crises with damaging consequences for both staff and their patients.’
It’s inexplicable they won’t even discuss the current dispute, despite seeing in Scotland and Wales what can be achieved through negotiation
'The government must now come to the table to avert further strikes, which we will not hesitate to call in order to defend the ability of our members to pay their bills and for the NHS to recruit and retain the staff it desperately needs.’
Workforce crisis highlights need for fairer pay
The CSP has been calling for meaningful discussions over an improved deal since the summer, with the pay award given by the government being less than half the rate of inflation.
The workforce crisis at the NHS means that physiotherapy staff are unable to deliver the high-quality care that they are trained for with a devastating impact on their patients’ quality of life.
Recent polling conducted by Opinium shows 56 per cent of the public backs strike action by physiotherapy staff, against just 25 per cent who oppose it.
Crucially, 71 per cent of those polled also said the government must come up with a better deal for physiotherapy staff and other NHS workers to end the dispute.
Physiotherapists are continuing to provide emergency lifesaving care, including covering intensive care and respiratory on-call services, throughout today's industrial action.
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