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Health

Health unions cancel strikes after Welsh Government’s pay offer

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HEALTH unions in Wales postponed strike action due for this week following an improved pay offer from the Welsh Government.
This Monday and Tuesday (February 6 and 7), Wales would’ve experienced the worst strike action across the NHS as members of UNISON, GMB, the RCN, and the Royal College of Midwives were due to take strike action.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “This revised pay offer comprises an additional 3%, of which 1.5% is consolidated, so it will be in pay packets year-on-year, on top of the Pay Review Body recommendations, which have already been implemented in full. This offer will be backdated to April 2022. This revised package includes several non-pay commitments to enhance staff well-being, on which negotiations will continue next week.
“Whilst there is currently no improved pay offer on the table for NHS staff in England, it was also agreed that any resulting Barnett consequential following any improved offer to staff in England would result in a further pay offer to staff in Wales.
“We would like to thank those participating in the negotiations for their positive engagement and goodwill. We are awaiting a formal response from each of the individual trade unions.”

NO CERTAINTY STRIKES WILL END

While unions praised the Welsh Government for coming up with an improved offer, its acceptance is not guaranteed. Each will now consult with its members about the Welsh Government’s offer, and their members will decide whether to accept or reject it.
The amount on offer is on top of the 4.5% already imposed without negotiating with the unions.
Nathan Holman, GMB Welsh NHS lead, said: “After intense negotiations, GMB has agreed to suspend strike action while further talks take place.
“We recognise that the Welsh Government and Welsh Ambulance Service Trust have made concessions, and through social partnership, we appreciate the frank and open dialogue with them over the last few months.
“This has only been made possible because the Welsh Government has been prepared to talk about
As well as cancelling strike action scheduled for February 7, the Royal College of Midwives also suspended action short of a strike planned for February 7-14.
The RCM will consult its midwife and maternity support worker members on the new offer. Further talks are planned to address staffing shortages, working conditions and service pressures.
Julie Richards, RCM Director for Wales, said: “This has come about because of the determination of our members to make their voices heard and their readiness to act. It brought the Welsh Government to the table and led to this offer.

“WE WILL NOT HESITATE TO STRIKE”

Hugh McDyer, UNISON Cymru Wales head of health, said: “We are pleased that intensive discussion between the trade unions and the Welsh government resulted in an improved offer.
“The new offer contains an element that will be consolidated into healthcare workers’ pay, which is what UNISON has argued for throughout negotiations.
“UNISON’s healthcare committee will now meet to discuss the offer in more detail. UNISON will continue discussions with Welsh ministers on further improvements to employment conditions. We are determined to get the best possible deal for our nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, paramedics, cleaners, porters, catering staff, admin staff and many more.
“After how they worked throughout the pandemic and how they respond magnificently to challenging situations every day, it is the least they deserve.
“It is important that our members now have their say. The decision to accept or reject this offer lies with them. We are pausing this action in good faith so that other issues – such as pressures on staff and working conditions – can also be addressed.
“Make no mistake though, we still have a very strong mandate for industrial action and will not hesitate to take it if our members reject the offer or if planned talks do not move forward as promised.”
RCN Wales Director, Helen Whyley, said: “Our strike action in December has been effective as the Welsh government has listened to the issues facing nursing in Wales and put forward an increased offer for nurses’ pay.
“Industrial action continues to be a last resort for nurses. I have heard their stories of the personal sacrifice they make daily, fighting for safe care for their patients, pushing them to vote for strike action. The pressure our members put on the Welsh government has been key to these negotiations moving forward.
“Our elected members have agreed that strike action proposed for February 6 should be cancelled and that we should put forward this offer to our members in Wales for them to decide whether it truly respects and values the nursing profession.
“The Health Minister should be under no illusion that we will not hesitate to return to strike action should the offer be rejected.”

WG HAD MONEY ALL ALONG

The Welsh Conservatives pointed to the elephant in the room, observing that the Welsh Government could have stopped industrial action and made an improved pay offer much sooner.
Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: “This only shows that for all of this time, despite saying it didn’t, the Labour Government had the money to give NHS workers a better pay offer.
“It is also welcome to see staff welfare being included as part of this package, as we have called for, because we know that poor working conditions have hit morale hard, with many complaining of ‘burnout’.”
Plaid Cymru called the Welsh Government’s pay offer “long overdue” and has criticised them for being slow to act on the NHS pay dispute in Wales, resulting in three months of industrial action.
Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, Plaid Cymru’s health and care spokesperson, said: “The Welsh Government U-turn on nurses’ pay is welcome but long overdue. If the Welsh Government had listened to Plaid Cymru, it could have avoided three months of industrial action. That’s three months during which the Welsh Government repeatedly told us there was no money when we had worked out the sums and proved it was possible!
“I’m only sorry that it took repeated strike action from our brave workers for Welsh Government to take responsibility and step up to the challenge.”

Health

Doctors to enter pay negotiations with the Welsh Government

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BMA CYMRU Wales has suspended forthcoming industrial action for Consultants and SAS doctors following a constructive meeting with the Welsh government to resolve its pay disputes.

As a result of sustained pressure, including three rounds of industrial action by junior doctors in Wales, the Welsh Government has made a significant proposal to form the basis of talks to end the pay disputes with all secondary care doctors including Consultants, SAS and Junior doctors.

Since the meeting last week, the committees representing doctors from all three branches of practice have voted to enter pay negotiations based on this proposal.

The planned 48-hour strike by Consultants and SAS doctors due to take place from 16 April will now be suspended.

Junior doctors have paused plans to announce more strike dates whilst they enter negotiations with the Welsh Government.

The Welsh junior doctors committee, Welsh SAS committee and Welsh consultants committee will now each engage in pay negotiations, with the aim of reaching deals which can be taken separately to their respective members.

Dr Oba Babs Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey co-chairs of the BMA’s Welsh Junior doctors Committee said:

“This is a significant step forward. It is sad that we had to take industrial action to get here, but we are proud of members for demonstrating their resolve in pursuit of a fair deal for the profession.

“Whilst we are optimistic and hope to quickly resolve our dispute, we remain steadfast in achieving pay restoration. Until we reach a deal, nothing is off the table.

 “We will continue to work hard to reach an offer that is credible to put to members who will ultimately have the final say.”

Dr Stephen Kelly, chair of BMA Cymru Wales’ Consultants committee said:

“The Welsh Government’s recent efforts to reach an end to the pay dispute are encouraging and so we have called off our planned strike for now whilst we allow time and space for negotiations to take place.

“We’re hopeful that we can reach a deal that sufficiently addresses years of erosion to our pay to help retain senior doctors in Wales but remain ready to strike if we’re not able to do so during negotiations.”

Dr Ali Nazir, chair of BMA Cymru Wales’ SAS doctor committee said:

“As a committee, we felt that this latest development goes someway to understanding the strength of feeling of our members. We will work hard to reach a settlement that sufficiently meets the expectation of our colleagues who have faced real terms pay cuts of up to a third since 2008/9.”

In August last year, the BMA’s committees representing secondary care doctors in Wales voted to enter into separate trade disputes with the Welsh Government after being offered another below inflation pay uplift of just 5% for the 23/24 financial year. SAS doctors on some contracts were offered as little as 1.5%. This was the lowest pay offer any government in the UK offered and less than the DDRB, the pay review body for doctors and dentists, recommended last year.

As part of their disputes, SAS doctors, consultants and junior doctors carried out successful ballots for industrial action. Since then, junior doctors have taken part in 10 days of industrial action since January this year.

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Health

BMA pay disputes – Junior Doctors, Consultants and Specialist Doctors

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THE WELSH Government and BMA Wales’ three national committees representing consultants, SAS doctors and junior doctors have today agreed to formal negotiations about pay.

Planned industrial action will be suspended during the negotiations.

A mandate is being developed for the talks with all three BMA branches of practice with the aim of resolving the disputes over pay for 2023-24.

In the context of the most challenging financial position the Welsh Government has faced since devolution, a significant amount of work has been undertaken to identify funding to support the negotiations.

First Minister Vaughan Gething said: “We recognise the strength of feeling among BMA members and that industrial action is never taken lightly.

“This is a government that listens and engages to find solutions. I prioritised a meeting with the BMA directly alongside the Cabinet Secretary for Health to reinforce our commitment to that partnership approach.

“We currently face the most severe financial situation in the devolution era which makes our task far harder. Despite this backdrop, we have worked to identify a way forward that I hope will lead to the successful resolution of this dispute and ensure that doctors can return to work in NHS Wales.”

Cabinet Secretary for Health Eluned Morgan added: “Even in these very challenging circumstances, we have worked in social partnership with the BMA and NHS to maintain patent safety during industrial action.

“But the strikes have been very disruptive to the delivery of NHS services – none of us want to see doctors on strike. I am pleased the three BMA committees have agreed to pause further industrial action and begin formal talks with Welsh Government and hope we can bring an end to this dispute.”

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Health

NHS dental charges in Wales to increase from April

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THE COST of NHS dental treatment in Wales will increase from 1 April 2024.

The increase in dental charges is the first since April 2020 and are overall still lower than in England. Any revenue generated from the increased charges will be re-invested back into NHS dentistry services.

From April 2024, the three standard charges will increase to between £20.00 and £260.00 depending on the treatment required, and urgent treatment will increase to £30.00.

Around 50% of people receive NHS dental treatment for free in Wales. Those eligible for free treatment include children under 18 or those aged 18 and in full time education, pregnant women or those who have had a baby within the 12 months of treatment starting, anyone who has dentistry treatment carried out in a hospital or people on certain benefits.

Additionally, the low-income scheme provides full or partial help with health costs, depending on individual circumstances.

Despite pressure on budgets the Welsh Government has increased investment for dentistry, with funding £27 million higher than it was in 2018 to 2019. Included within this increase is an additional £2 million a year to address local access issues.

Changes to the dentistry contract in Wales include a requirement for NHS practices to see new patients. Since this was introduce in April 2022, 312,000 people who couldn’t get an appointment before have now received NHS dental treatment.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, Eluned Morgan, said: “Because of the extreme pressure on our budget we have had to consider if additional funding should be raised by increasing dentistry charges.

“This is the first increase we have made to dentistry charges since 2020. Around half of patients don’t pay for their NHS dental treatment and we will continue to protect those that are least able to afford to pay.

“It is vital we all keep our teeth and gums healthy. This is why we are working to make it easier for people to see an NHS dentist by increasing the number of new NHS places and helping dentists to focus on those who need help by changing how often we see a dentist for routine appointments.”

Commenting on the announcement Russell George MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister said: “Vaughan Gething’s arrogant choice to hike up dental charges for the people Wales, rather than cut his Labour Government’s wasteful spending is wrong.

“All standard charges are being increased for dental services by the Labour Welsh Government, including for urgent treatment, which will add to cost-of-living pressures.

“While Welsh Conservatives agree that dental services require greater investment after years of Labour underfunding them, ministers should look at cutting vanity projects like their plans to create more politicians before passing on the cost to patients.”

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