Nurses and ambulance crews across Merseyside are on picket lines this morning, as the NHS experiences the biggest strike day yet.
Workers are striking outside Aintree University Hospital and the Royal Liverpool Hospital among other NHS trusts across Merseyside. They join the national action which will see tens of thousands of nurses and ambulance staff walk out in support of pay claims.
Today's industrial action is expected to be the biggest strike in the history of the NHS, as it marks the first time the two groups have staged stoppages on the same day during the current wave of disputes convulsing public services.
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It prompted NHS Providers - which represents trusts - to urge the public to use emergency services "wisely" as it warned the whole service was approaching a "crunch point". The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) - which is staging two days of action - has said that it is calling out twice as many of its members than it did during earlier strikes in December and January.
While ambulance crews and call handlers will return to work on Tuesday but are then due to walk out again on Friday. Pat Cullen, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, speaking at a picket line outside St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, told the PA news agency: "Everyone can see the resilience of our nursing staff, these brilliant people that are standing on the picket lines today, losing another day's pay. They are saying patients have had enough, they have had enough.
"They're not willing to continue to see their NHS managing every day within a crisis. They're trying to bring their NHS back from the brink and they will continue to do this for as long as this Government takes to listen to them.
"The voice of nursing is the voice of the patient. So get around a table today with me, let's start to talk on behalf of the nurses in England, do the decent thing with them.
"And Rishi Sunak today can choose to have talks over strikes. That's what he needs to do. Hundreds of thousands of nurses take part in this ballot and they've given me the strongest mandate of any nursing profession throughout the world, so they will continue to do this for as long as it takes for this Government to actually wake up and listen to their voice and listen to their voice on behalf of patients and do the decent thing."
NHS Providers chief executive Sir Julian Hartley said they understood why so many of their staff had reached a "tipping point" as he urged ministers to sit down with unions to thrash out a settlement.
He said: "We're facing a crunch point. Monday's co-ordinated walkout by nurses and ambulance workers could see the worst disruption yet for the NHS. We face a very real risk that tens of thousands more patients will have their care disrupted in the coming days by this double whammy of strikes, especially as they're coming right after a weekend when we know demand for care tends to build up."
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