'The Government gives us no choice but to strike again'

24 hour strike action planned for 37 Trusts in England following unsuccessful talks with Government.

Published: 08 September 2023 Trade Union & IR

Radiography professionals across England are preparing to take strike action for a second time, after talks between government ministers and the Society of Radiographers broke down, owing to the government's unwillingness to alter its position. 

Action planned

The Society will take strike action for 24 hours, from 8am on Tuesday 3 October to 8am on Wednesday 4 October, alongside junior doctors and consultants. 

Thousands of our members voted in favour of strike action earlier this summer, and participated in a 48-hour strike from 25 to 27 July.  Our radiography professionals are responsible for a range of critical healthcare services, including carrying out X-rays, MRI and CT scans, ultrasounds and breast screening, as well as radiotherapy for cancer patients.    

Following the strikes in July, we were invited to discussions with Government ministers on 5 September.  

Proposals rejected 

Dean Rogers, SoR director of industrial strategy, said: “The government’s plans to open new community diagnostic centres and to cut cancer waiting lists all rely on having a strong radiography workforce – which means recruiting and retaining more radiographers.  

“In addition to asking for a pay increase, we proposed offering either golden handshakes for new radiographers or a reduced working week for the entire profession – both aimed at improving working conditions for the profession.  

“But ministers rejected our proposals outright, refusing even to discuss ways to make the profession more attractive to its current workforce or to new recruits. Nothing in the discussion gave us confidence that the government would be willing to move from its current position.  

“We didn’t want to find ourselves back here again. But, with regret, we feel we have no choice but to take further strike action.” 

Radiography is critical to patient care

Nine out of 10 patients in the NHS are supported by a radiography professional. But too few are being recruited or retained right now. As a result, a million patients are currently waiting to be seen by a radiographer – often delaying vital diagnosis and treatment for months. 

Mr Rogers said: “Taking strike action is never an easy decision. This is especially true for radiography professionals, who dedicate themselves to providing the best possible care for patients – despite working long hours for pay that has been falling behind average wages for years. 

“The average weekly earnings for our members have only increased by 23 per cent since 2008 – compared with an average weekly increase of 55 per cent.     

“Many radiography professionals are feeling burnt out by low pay and increased hours. They’re leaving the NHS, and they are not being replaced in adequate numbers.  

“The government agreed to support a 6.5 per cent pay increase for other public-sector workers. This only highlights how inadequate and unfair the NHS 5 per cent deal is.  

“We will not allow those working in the NHS to become the poor relations among public sector workers. Radiography professionals should be offered a 6.5 to 7 per cent increase, in line with other public sector workers.  

The time is now

“If the government wants to reduce NHS waiting lists and ensure that patients receive the treatment they need, when they need it, then it must urgently prioritise the recruitment and retention of radiography professionals. This means making a commitment to ensure pay restoration and provide more for the radiography workforce without delay. 

“But ministers persist in saying that they cannot offer us anything more – after the government failed to offer a solution to the current recruitment and retention crisis. Therefore, we are left with no choice but to take further strike action.” 

Because of the statutory thresholds imposed on essential workers’ industrial-action ballots, there are 37 NHS trusts where members have a mandate to strike. These trusts include Nottingham University Hospitals, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston, and East Suffolk and North Essex, which is in health minister Will Quince’s constituency.

We all deserve better

Our members in Northern Ireland have also voted in favour of strike action, and we plan to take our members out for 48 hours at every NI Trust from 8am Thursday 21 to 8am on Saturday 22 September. 

In both England and NI, the government could avert strikes, reduce waiting lists, save lives and save taxpayers’ money if the workforce plan included a fair starting salary for radiography professionals, as well as a move to restore pay levels for current staff over several years, from the 2023-24 pay award onwards. This would help to reduce pressure on members to take on excessive overtime hours and keep radiography professionals within the NHS.   

Mr Rogers said: “Strike action is a last resort. But our members have demonstrated that they believe they have no alternative, because the government won’t take the action needed to address their concerns.  

“Our members deserve better. Our patients deserve better.”