Keir Starmer tells government to 'get around the table' and stop nursing strikes

With striking nurses set to walkout on Thursday, Sir Keir Starmer told ITV's Peston Show that the government must take the 'window of opportunity' it has to resolve the dispute

Sir Keir Starmer has told the government to "get off your hands" and reach a negotiated settlement with striking nurses, before the first of two days of industrial action take place this week.

On Thursday, tens of thousands of members from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, will head to picket lines in a row over pay and patient safety.

With days until the first wave of strike action commences, the Labour leader told ITV's Peston Show the government must be "responsible" and meet with union representatives.

He said: "In the end, how is this going to end? It will end around the negotiating table. Do we do it this week before the strike or do we do it weeks and weeks down the line when so many people will have suffered because of the strike?

"I say, as a responsible government, get off your hands, get in the negotiating room, talk this through between now and Wednesday.

"There’s a window of opportunity to resolve this issue, and a government with any sense of leadership will get in the room and resolve it."

Pressed on how a Labour government would address the situation, Sir Keir refused to be drawn into specifics.

'There’s a massive difference between when Labour was in power and what we’ve got now'

He did not comment on whether a Labour administration would follow the government's lead in listening to the recommendations made by independent pay review bodies.

Instead he pointed to his party's record when it last held government, saying: "When Labour was in power we had fair pay for nurses and we didn’t have strikes.

"So, there’s a massive difference between when Labour was in power and what we’ve got now."

Elsewhere, Sir Keir looked to defend Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, after he said that the NHS was no longer the envy of the world.

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The Labour leader said that Mr Streeting was instead trying to highlight "deep problems" in the NHS which had been created by "12 years of mismanagement" by the Conservatives.

"Morale is rock bottom. So, there’s the stuff we need to do to rebuild the NHS. But Wes was also talking about what we need to do going forward which I agree with," he added.

"Of course there’s always going to be the question with the NHS about the money that’s needed, but we also need to reform.

"We need intervention [and] we need prevention."

Nursing strikes at a glance

During November, the RCN said around 100,000 nurses would participate in strikes, with a second walkout planned for December 20.

When nurses do strike it will be the first time a UK-wide walkout has been staged in the RCN's 106-year history.

Despite a pay award of £1,400 this year, the RCN said experienced nurses are worse off by 20% in real terms due to successive below-inflation awards since 2010.

Consequently, the union has called for a pay rise of 5% above RPI inflation - which currently stands at 11.1%.