More than 500,000 health workers are among those taking part in the biggest industrial action seen in the UK in over 20 years.

With nurses, radiographers, podiatrists and chiropodists from Unison and Unite unions all involved in the "Day of Action", the NHS has been forced to cancel thousands of routine treatments and appointments to prioritise urgent patients.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said that patients would inevitably suffer "inconvenience" after talks between the government and union leaders over public sector pensions broke down, though they were able to agree that emergency and urgent would be "maintained".

Despite this arrangement and the fact that hospitals were able to book in less patients in anticipation of the long-announced strike, some ambulance services, particularly in London, have said they were "struggling" to keep pace with demand.

Yet Dean Royles, director of NHS Employers, believes the impact of the strikes would be minimal and said:  "I want to be clear that the NHS's over-riding priority will be the safety of our patients.

"Many services will be working in much the same way they do at a weekend or on a bank holiday."

A recently qualified nurse at Brighton's Royal Sussex County Hospital, who did not want to be named, told JFHC that she was striking because of the government's "broken promises", saying: "While I regret the potential impact this [strike] has on people, we deserve to receive the pension scheme that we signed up for and have paid into."

One of her paramedic colleagues added that: "The strike isn't just about pensions, it's about the pay freeze and how we seem to have double the workload for no additional benefit for healthcare workers while bankers bonuses just keep getting higher."

The Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives and British Medical Association are not taking part in the strike but all have their own plans to take action against changes to healthcare proposed in the Health Bill.



Posted 30/11/2011 at 1630 by