Unison leader PRENTIS on the picket line during last year’s NHS strike
Unison leader PRENTIS on the picket line during last year’s NHS strike

THE UNIONS will call off next week’s NHS strike if a ‘tangible offer emerges as a result of current talks with Tory health secretary Hunt’, the GMB confirmed yesterday.

Meanwhile, preparations are being made to use both military medics and doctors as strike breakers during the 24-hour NHS strike due to take place on January 29.

However, doctors’ union the BMA said yesterday that GPs are not willing to do so.

An email, which called on GPs ‘to provide emergency cover during the strikes’, marked ‘urgent’, was sent by NHS England London to all Clinical Commissioning Groups.

A BMA spokesperson commented: ‘The BMA is clear that this is not a good idea; GPs are not trained to do this work.

‘Also general practice is under unprecedented pressure, struggling to cope with patients’ demands. GPs simply do not have the time to do any additional work. The government really needs to sit down with the relevant unions and sort this situation out.’

Sarah Cook, head of health for Unite, said: ‘We would agree with the BMA that it is completely inappropriate for them to be strike breaking.

‘In our pay dispute we are talking about 1 per cent; that is not a lot of money. Asking other health workers who are not taking strike action to be put in an impossible situation of breaking the strike of staff who are taking strike action for fair pay is totally inappropriate.

‘To pitch health worker against health worker is wrong. When we reach the end of our tether, the only thing we have left is our ability to take industrial action and that is a human right, to remove our labour.

‘People who are out on strike next week are from a wide range of departments from nurses to laboratory scientists, porters and midwives. This proposal is a sign that our strike action is working; they are seeking desperate measures.’

Meanwhile, plans for RAF crews to be used in A&E departments are already underway. Eight paramedics at RAF Brize Norton are to be trained by South Central Ambulance Service to attend emergencies in Oxfordshire.

There are plans to roll the scheme out across Britain with all armed forces bases being asked for help. The armed forces were deployed as strike breakers during the firefighters’ strike of 2002-2003. The army used antiquated ‘Green Goddesses’, the ineffective army equivalent of a fire engine.

GMB, who were in talks with Hunt about the strike yesterday, along with Unite, Unison and RCN have issued the ‘necessary formal notices’ for strike action on January 29.

Rehana Azam, GMB National Officer, said, ‘It has taken months to get the talks started in the NHS pay dispute.

‘Should a tangible offer emerge as a result of these current talks, GMB will take that offer back to members. We are not in a position to call the strike off until we have such an offer. Notices have been served to the relevant NHS employers today.’

On Thursday, the government’s emergency task force COBRA met to make plans to break the NHS strike. It was chaired by health secretary Hunt.

• The NHS unions’ talks with Health Secretary Hunt were adjourned yesterday and will resume at 2pm on Monday 26th January.