Hospital pharmacists in England and Wales to be balloted on industrial action

Exclusive: Unite has confirmed that rolling ballots will close before Christmas, meaning workers could walk out in January 2023.
NHS workers protesting

Hospital pharmacists will be among thousands of NHS staff members balloted by the union Unite on possible industrial action over a proposed pay award.

A statement published on Unite’s website on 12 November 2022 said that “nearly 10,000” NHS staff members across 36 NHS trusts and organisations in England and Wales will be balloted “in the coming days” ahead of potential strike action from January 2023.

In July 2022, the English and Welsh governments accepted recommendations from the NHS Pay Review Body to give NHS staff on the Agenda for Change scheme a pay award of at least £1,400 backdated to 1 April 2022.

However, unions opened a consultative industrial action ballot in August 2022, which resulted in 84% of those balloted voting in favour of potential action.

Following the consultative ballot, the union sent further ballots to ambulance workers in England in October 2022 to confirm plans for industrial action, with the ballot closing on 30 November 2022.

A spokesperson for Unite confirmed to The Pharmaceutical Journal that the latest ballot of 10,000 staff includes hospital pharmacists alongside other staff working in front line patient care and essential services, such as the blood and transplant services.

“The rolling ballots will close before Christmas, meaning that workers could walk out in January 2023,” they said.

Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, said its members “are now fighting for the very existence of the NHS itself”.

“Crushing staff shortages mean patients’ lives are now at risk. Twelve years of senseless cuts have driven workers from our most essential public service. Make no mistake, our NHS is under siege.”

On 9 November 2022, nurses balloted by the Royal College of Nursing voted to hold the union’s first strike across the UK because of concerns over the pay award.

In a letter dated 1 November 2022, NHS England told integrated care boards and NHS trusts that “trade unions representing NHS staff have advised the secretary of state for health and social care that they are in dispute over the 2022/2023 pay award”. 

“The NHS’s task now is to be prepared for any potential industrial action so there is minimal disruption to patient care and emergency services can continue to operate as normal,” the letter added.

“Although the negotiations are for the government to lead on, at a local level it is vital that constructive relationships with trade unions and staff representatives are maintained and that the employment rights of staff during industrial action are respected.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, November 2022, Vol 309, No 7967;309(7967)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2022.1.166108

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