As reported by the news agency AFP, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday urged for “bold and radical” measures to revamp the crisis-hit state healthcare system during emergency talks with health leaders. On Saturday, Sunak, who has been accused of passivity, hosted England’s chief medical officer Chris Witty and NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard at Downing Street. The discussion took place ahead of Monday’s scheduled meetings between government officials and union leaders to terminate the strikes.
The NHS state-funded health service is struggling to handle the demand for emergency medical care during a difficult winter with high incidence of coronavirus and flu after years of underfunding. Hospital and ambulance workers have gone on strike for the first time in 100 years, with many members of the public sympathising with their cause.
According to the AFP, nurses are demanding a pay increase to account for inflation exceeding 10%. “During the pandemic, we had to bring daring and radicalism to how we conducted things to get through,” Downing Street cited the prime minister as saying.
“I think we need that same bold and radical approach now.” He added: “Together today, we can figure out the things that will make the biggest difference to the country and everyone’s family, in the short and medium term.”
Sunak outlined five targets for 2023 in a speech last week, including reducing NHS waiting lists. Pat Cullen, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing union, told BBC radio that she will attend Monday’s meeting with health minister Steve Barclay.
At the same time, she stated that Sunak should directly engage with nurses in order to avoid more strike action on January 18 and 19. “He needs to come to the table with me and put money on the table, and it has to be for the current year,” she told the BBC.