More than 1,000 Teesside NHS healthcare assistants are set to strike for three more days as a dispute over pay continues.

Healthcare assistants at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will walk out at 8am Monday (April 8) for 72 hours as they fight for a pay rise and to secure a fair backpay settlement. The action follows a 24-hour walkout staged last month.

It comes as Unison today (Friday, April 5) slams the government for its "failure" to honour an annual pay increase for NHS staff nationally.

The union said ministers have let down hundreds of thousands of NHS workers, and blamed government for workers not receiving their 2024/25 wage rise, which had been due on Easter Monday.

The new walkout is against a background of ongoing strike action and unrest across the country in recent months which has seen junior doctors, led by the British Medical Association, and train drivers, led by Aslef, protest against their pay and conditions.

Aslef members remain locked in a 20-month dispute over jobs with no sign of any breakthrough - with train drivers set to launch an overtime ban and strike action to begin today (Friday, April 5). 

Junior doctors have staged a series of walkouts over the past year and members recently voted to back more action with the new mandate lasting until September 19 - though no dates of any fresh action have been announced yet.

The 72-hour strikes by North East healthcare assistants will involve eight hospitals: University Hospital of North Tees, Stockton-on-Tees; University Hospital of Hartlepool; James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough; Friarage Hospital, Northallerton; Redcar Primary Care Hospital; East Cleveland Primary Care Hospital, Brotton; and Friary Community Hospital, Richmond.

Unison said workers have overwhelmingly rejected an inadequate offer from the employer, which it says failed to recognise the underpayment over the years.

The union's Northern regional secretary, Clare Williams, said: “Teesside healthcare assistants are increasingly frustrated at their trust’s unwillingness to do the right thing. 

“Both employers’ refusal to negotiate is only making workers more determined to carry on their fight for fair pay.

“Healthcare assistants have proudly served their community across Teesside for years. Many have worked above their pay band for far beyond the date they’re asking for. 

“They feel disrespected and unvalued. The community, patients and colleagues have been overwhelmingly supportive.  

“The strikes won’t stop until justice is done. Staff are becoming increasingly determined the trusts must do the right thing or they could permanently damage their relationship with their own workforces."

The union said it has offered to negotiate with the trusts to reach an improved offer, but that both have so far refused to do so.

In response to the planned action, a spokesperson for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: "We recognise and appreciate the huge contribution that healthcare assistants make to our patients.

“Since the elements of these roles were clarified nationally, we have been working closely with trade union colleagues to move our healthcare assistants to these grades where applicable.

"Our trusts support this move and the benefits to our HCA workforce and therefore have committed to back pay dating back to July 2021 - the date the national job profile for the clinical support worker role changed.

“During the strike action, we will once again be prioritising urgent and emergency care to protect patient safety and ensure those in life-threatening emergencies can receive the best possible care.

“If you have an appointment and we have not contacted you, please attend your appointment as planned. The NHS will contact you if your appointment needs to be rescheduled due to strike action.

“People can help us by keeping A&E free to treat the most serious and life-threatening conditions. If you have an urgent but non-life-threatening medical need, please use NHS 111 online to find the right healthcare service for your needs.”

Unison says most of the healthcare assistants have routinely undertaken clinical tasks that would normally be done by those on band 3, such as taking blood, performing electrocardiogram tests and inserting cannulas. 

Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, said: “Staff right across our NHS say that they feel undervalued and disrespected, and it is easy to understand how they feel this way.

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“After 14 years of piecemeal pay deals, numerous NHS reorganisations and the shattering impact of the Covid pandemic, our healthcare workers are stretched to breaking point.

“The Tory Government have failed to get a grip on the real needs of the NHS as staff shortages, employment disputes and crumbling buildings threaten the future of NHS service levels across Teesside.

“They need to give the trust the ability to ensure staff have the resources and the remuneration they need in the interests of patients and the future of the service on which we all rely."