'It doesn't wash with me': Nurses react to FM's comments about lack of funding as strikes continue

Nurses have been on picket lines across Wales as strike action continues

Nurses across Wales are striking again on Tuesday in a dispute over pay and working conditions, with non-urgent and routine appointments likely to be postponed.

The Welsh Government says it's working to deliver the best outcomes for staff with the funding it has, but the Royal College of Nursing says it needs to stop shifting the blame.

One nurse told ITV Cymru Wales: "I can't believe that it's come to this to have safe staffing on the wards and the right pay that we should have for the work that we do."

Nurses gathered on the picket line in Cardiff on Tuesday Credit: PA Images

Sarah Hill, Deputy Manager on the Women’s Health Unit at the Heath Hospital and strike supervisor outside the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, said: "The Government need to do something otherwise the NHS is not going to survive as we are.

"We are doing the best that we can, but nurses are leaving their shifts every day, every day crying and in tears because they don’t feel like they’re supported or listened to.

"I’ve been nursing for 39 years and nurses have never had a decent pay rise in my opinion. We’ve been neglected for years and years now and because of that the staff is reducing – people are leaving, people are retiring early and students are not coming into the profession.

"The Government can find money for other things when it suits them, they now need to find money for their nursing staff."

Ms Hill thanked people for the “terrific” support they have shown nurses on Tuesday, including the ongoing parade of cars honking as they drive past and those who have brought baked goods and hot drinks to the picket line.

'It just doesn't wash with me,' Helen Whyly, Director of the Royal College of Nursing told ITV Cymru Wales ahead of more industrial action by nurses

Helen Whyley, Director of the Royal College of Nursing Wales told ITV Cymru Wales: "It just doesn't wash with me. 'Welsh Solutions for Welsh problems' is what we hear the Welsh Government talking about. 

"These are Welsh nurses in Welsh community hospitals and we need a Welsh solution."

Members of the Royal College of Nursing have been striking over pay. Credit: PA Images

She continued: "We have conversations about retention [of nursing staff] and recruitment and agency spending - and we've been doing that for the last ten years.

"Often what we find is the rhetoric and the reality are two separate things. The government, officials and very senior people in the NHS all agree these are things to work on but then the reality is that it just doesn't happen.

"I've been talking about retention of nurses for well over ten years and yet still they don't even do exit interviews to understand why nurses are leaving.

"It has to change and this is why our members have taken this vote as they have - no one is listening."

Strike action has been taking places across the UK. Credit: PA Images

Ms Whyley also said: "NHS Wales pay is a Welsh Government decision. Health care services are devolved.

"The First Minister has said in the past he believes in devolution because it allows Welsh solutions to Welsh problems. This is Mark Drakeford government’s opportunity to do just that.

"I am calling on the Welsh Government to make a genuine commitment to improving the current pay award and to meet with the Royal College of Nursing to resolve this dispute. The Welsh Government must find a way forward with or without additional funding from the UK Government.

"As we approach the end of 2022 and a New Year it is bitterly disappointing that the Royal College of Nursing is being forced to consider announcing further strike dates. I urge the First Minister to respond to positively to my letter inviting talks."

In response, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: "We understand the strength of feeling among nurses which has led them to take industrial action and the pressures all public sector workers are under due to the cost-of-living crisis.

"We will continue to work to bring together trade unions, employers and government to deliver the best possible outcomes for workers, while continuing to call on the UK Government to use the funding it has to provide a fair pay offer to NHS staff and enable us to do the same in Wales.  

"While industrial action is planned, we will continue to work with the NHS, unions and partners to ensure patient safety and minimise disruption."

Nurses have been on the picket line in Cardiff. Credit: PA Images

Plaid Cymru has also been reacting to the strikes, saying that faith has been 'lost' in the Welsh Government's ability to manage the NHS.

Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, Plaid Cymru's spokesperson for health and care said: "These strikes are the last resort of a health service on its knees.

"Our health and care service needs healing. If we are to truly get to grips with the chronic issues plaguing our NHS - long waiting lists, pressure on health and care workers and the current backlog in treatment and diagnosis - then we must build a more resilient and robust health and care service, starting with support for our hard-working staff.

"These strikes have never just been about pay. Our health and care staff are over-worked and under-resourced and have lost faith in the Welsh Government’s ability to manage the NHS. These strikes are the last resort of a health service on its knees. Welsh Government must use all the levers at their disposal to improve the pay award and to improve working conditions. Without workers, there is no NHS."

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