King’s Lynn hospital braced for 12-hour strike action

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Workers at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) are set to stage a 12-hour strike as part of an ongoing pay dispute with the government.

Staff from several unions are due to walk out at 9am this Thursday in protest at ministers’ refusal to implement an independent pay review, which recommended a one per cent rise for all workers.

The move comes as political battlelines are drawn over health services in West Norfolk after two Labour election candidates launched a campaign to, in their words, “save” the QEH.

Members of the Unison and Unite unions are due to take part in the action, along with the Royal College of Midwives, radiographers, occupational therapists and managers. Ambulance staff who are members of the GMB union are set to stage a 24 hour walkout.

Darren Barber, chairman of the hospital’s joint staff-side consultative committee, said: “We have been working with the trust to ensure a save service for all patients is still delivered. Staffing will be maintained at safe levels”

The strike is then set to be followed by a work to rule, in which members will only work their designated hours.

The action follows the launch yesterday of a Keep It QE campaign by Labour general election candidates Jo Rust and Peter Smith.

The pair have set out several pledges, including opposing “any further erosion” of services offered at the Gayton Road site and ensuring services are delivered directly by the NHS.

They say they will fight any decision to award services to private companies, campaign for all staff to be given a one per cent pay rise and work towards all NHS staff being paid a living wage.

Mrs Rust, Labour’s North West Norfolk election candidate, claims there is public concern the QEH’s financial deficit may lead to it being taken over by a private company.

She said many were also worried by the loss of community services, such as district nurses, and the need to travel to Norwich rather than the QEH for treatment.

And she insisted that more funding is needed to reflect the area’s specific needs.

Mr Smith, who will be contesting the South West Norfolk seat, said they recognised the challenges, but added: “We must work to preserve what we have and ensure that services such as maternity are locally accessible.”

However, current North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham rejected the notion that services were under threat in what he described as an “expanding region.”

He said: “It’s just pie in the sky. It’s ludicrous.”

He also claimed there had been “misinformation” about the government’s position over NHS staff pay.

Union leaders say that 60 per cent of NHS staff and 70 per cent of nurses will get no pay increase, because of the government’s refusal to implement pay recommendations.

But Mr Bellingham said NHS England supported the government’s argument that such a rise was unaffordable.

He added: “Most people are getting a pay increase.”